Back in the 90's OEM PC manufacturers used to make some easy money by charging ISPs like AOL, Prodigy, and CompuServe to have dial-up software preloaded on their machines, and now the new millenium is finding the white box makers once again offering premium desktop and browser real estate to the highest bidder -- but this time around it's search giants Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft that are jockeying for space on your new machine. With the two largest manufacturers having already been spoken for -- Google famously partnered with Dell and Yahoo got in bed with both HP and Acer -- Microsoft's Live tools were running a very distant third until Redmond decided to look overseas and court Chinese powerhouse Lenovo. Well in a presumably nine- and possibly even ten-figure deal announced today, Lenovo will indeed be shipping all of its machines (including the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre lines) with the Windows Live toolbar and browsers pointed at Live Search, starting with rigs that roll off the line later this month. As you'd expect, the company is spinning this partnership as a big win for consumers, arguing that it "allows our customers to better communicate with us, in addition to giving them additional services." Well said, executive director of strategic alliances Peter Gaucher. In reality Lenovo just gets a big payday and Microsoft will likely see some boost in Live usage from newbs who don't know one search engine from the others; meanwhile, the rest of us will just have to take a few extra seconds to delete all the crapware and change our homepages.

[Via laptoping]