We show that k-means (Lloyd’s algorithm) is equivalent to a variational EM approximation of a Gaussian Mixture Model (GMM) with isotropic Gaussians. The k-means algorithm is obtained if truncated posteriors are used as variational distributions. In contrast to the standard way to relate k-means and GMMs, we show that it is not required to consider the limit case of Gaussians with zero variance. There are a number of consequences following from our observation: (A) k-means can be shown to monotonously increase the free-energy associated with truncated distributions; (B) Using the free-energy, we can derive an explicit and compact formula of a lower GMM likelihood bound which uses the k-means objective as argument; © We can generalize k-means using truncated variational EM, and relate such generalizations to other k-means-like algorithms. In general, truncated variational EM provides a natural and quantitative link between k-means-like clustering and GMM clustering algorithms which may be very relevant for future theoretical as well as empirical studies.