pokkiLenovo, which recently took the title of world’s largest PC maker, is going around Microsoft to restore something much closer to the traditional Start Menu in its Windows 8 machines, in addition to letting users sidestep the Redmond company’s built-in app store.

San Diego-based SweetLabs, which makes the Pokki app platform, this morning announced a deal with Lenovo to preinstall Pokki on new machines around the world. Pokki puts an acorn button on the lower left of the Windows desktop taskbar that provides access not only to its app store and game arcade but also to the Windows control panel and other features that users of traditional Windows versions have grown accustomed to seeing there.

The deal is a boon for SweetLabs, which also has a development office in Seattle. In conjunction with the Lenovo deal, SweetLabs says it’s expanding its app store beyond web apps to include traditional desktop programs and Windows 8 Modern UI apps.

The arrangement is a poke in the eye for Microsoft, which has been trying to shift user attention to its new Start screen and Windows store. The company has already conceded to user frustration by adding back the Windows flag in the lower left of the traditional desktop in Windows 8.1, although it leads to the Start screen by default, not to a traditional Start menu.

In an interview this week, SweetLabs co-founder Chester Ng said the company has been quietly giving itself “a crash course” in the world of computer makers, aiming to solve some of their biggest pain points. The arrangement allows PC makers to make additional revenue themselves by getting a cut of app sales.

“We started our company five years ago with a plan of building the largest app distribution platform on planet,” he said. “We think this is a pretty major step in that direction.”

SweetLabs previously announced a partnership with Acer to preload its game arcade, giving it relationships with two of the top four computer makers. Asked if the company was working on deals with additional PC makers, Ng said SweetLabs didn’t have anything to announce, yet.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • CharlesKGim

    This is a total tragedy for Microsoft. Just when you think it couldn’t get worse, it does. Ballmer is a moron.

    • Ryan Parrish

      It is indeed a bad sign when a large hardware partner tries to sidestep your own store. However, this isn’t much different from what Android device partners are doing and that hasn’t killed Android adoption. And in the case of Windows Microsoft gets paid whether you buy apps through their store or not via the license fee for the OS, which Google doesn’t charge to its partners.

  • Ryan G

    One of the reasons I picked Lenovo in the past was because their business grade machines didn’t have as much bloatware on it as others. This is what I view this Pokki thing as, bloatware.

    • Mike

      Totally agree. This is really just another OEM putting on bloatware that will have to be cleaned off. The question I’d have is can you remove it? Lenovo machines are still largely boxes handed out to office workers and if the Pokki feature has to make it through a corporate IT department then I wouldn’t expect to see it on many actual machines. Then again you won’t see Win8 on many corporate machines anyway but that is a different issue.

    • Coolie

      This Pokki move has nepotism and political connections written all over it.

    • Jason Farris

      What’s next, a giant clock? This sort of thing is best saved for Android, I personally won’t be buying any machines that use any tacked on toolbars, menus, dancing-lady gifs or other tacky skeuomorphs.

      I’m probably in the minority.

    • Kamille

      I just bought a Lenovo Y410p and that thing had so much bloatware I ended up doing a clean install to not having to bother deleting all that crap.

  • lardosardo

    I dont think Jumpin Jack Flash is gonna liek that idea.


  • Ray

    How this will conflict with the Start button in 8.1?

    • http://geekwire.com Todd Bishop

      Good question, I asked the same thing and I should have mentioned this in the post: They say the Pokki acorn will simply shift one slot over, to the right of the Windows flag in Windows 8.1.

  • Truthhz

    Microsoft stores should immediately wipe out hard drive on Lenovo PCs and sell them as Signature bloat free PCs

  • Juergensen

    I finally reached my dream and am free of Microsoft and its shoddy products and crashes and error messages and updates.


  • glorification

    SweetLabs should continue to embrace and extend by continuing to leverage Microsoft’s oversights – like XP updates, drivers, support…

Job Listings on GeekWork