1. Some people believe that Lindows.com promised Microsoft Windows application compatibility two years ago and that later you opted-out from this promise. What is the whole story and truth about this?
Kevin Carmony: When we started Lindows.com, we thought it might help people who were migrating to desktop Linux if they could still run their legacy Microsoft Windows software. So, we invested over a half million dollars into WINE, a technology used to run Microsoft Windows software under Linux. Most of that investment went to to pay Codeweavers to get Microsoft Office 2000 to run under Linux. After a few months of working on this project, Codeweavers did get Microsoft Office to run, but two other interesting things happened simultaneously as well. The first was that we decided it made more sense to put development into helping create better native Linux applications, and second, Codeweavers became re-energized and excited about WINE. Because all of our WINE code was open sourced, we wished Jeremy and company good luck, walked away from our investment, and discontinued any further work with WINE. Codeweavers then continued on with this code as the starting place for what later became Crossover Office.
The bottom line, is we simply decided that it made more sense for us to invest in encouraging software development for Linux applications. We realized that it didn't make much sense that someone would choose Linux for its openness and affordability, only to then run proprietary and expensive MS Windows software, such as Microsoft's $500 office suite. We realized that Microsoft Windows compatibility was facilitating movement in a direction contrary to the real strengths of Linux...open, affordable, secure, and stable, so we moved 100% of our energy into helping bring more and better Linux applications to the market. (I talk about this more in your later questions.)
Interestingly, however, was that because we attracted a fair amount of attention in those early days with WINE, it got companies like Codeweavers, SuSE and Xandros excited about Microsoft Windows compatibility. The irony is that while these companies were getting excited and jumping into this, we were changing our direction and moving completely away from Microsoft Windows compatibility. We've never regretted our decision to use and support native Linux software. We would rather help support the development of good substitutes for Microsoft Windows software. For example, we think Mozilla is a much superior product to IE. We'd rather invest in making Mozilla better than getting IE to run on Linux. We wish those who continue on with WINE the best of luck, it really is an amazing project, but it's just not the direction that fits our vision of Linux's future.
So, yes, we did change our direction, but that's what good companies do. It's rare that a company doesn't need to adjust to things as they move down the road with their business plan. When we made this change, we came out to our users candidly about our decision, and extended the time frame of our normal money-back guarantee to anyone who didn't want to continue on with LindowsOS, regardless of how long ago they had purchased LindowsOS. Fortunately, very few took us up on that offer, but rather joined us in our effort to support native Linux software.
We made this shift almost two years ago, but it's funny how long it takes to get past the first thing someone hears about you. I guess it's true what they say about first impressions, they're very hard to shake.
2. What are the contributions to open source Lindows.com has done so far? Is it mostly code, money or other types of support you offer, and how?
Kevin Carmony: We do all of those. For example, we contribute back all of our code for any open source projects we work on or pay to have worked on. Our code doesn't always get used, but we always submit it back. For instance, we worked with the GAIM developers as we made several changes to their Instant Messenger. We paid them to make some changes and our engineers made others. As we always do, we offered all of this work back to GAIM. So far they have only used about half of the changes, and we're fine with that, that's their decision. We submit everything back and let the maintainers decide what gets used or not.
We have also spent a lot of direct cash on open source projects as well. I already mentioned the nearly $500,000 we paid to improve WINE. We have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on other projects as well. For example, we have an on-going relationship with MozDev.org where we pay them to make dozens of changes that we think make Mozilla more powerful and easier to use, and all those changes are given back and many appear in the main tree for Mozilla. We're paying for the work on many exciting new features for Mozilla that everyone will ultimately enjoy, not just LindowsOS users.
We sponsor several Linux and open source web sites. For example, KDE-look.org had to shut down until we stepped up to sponsor them. We now also sponsor their sister site, KDE-apps.org. We also just arranged to bring apps.kde.com back to life, which was forced to shut down for lack of funding. We're always on the look out for sites to sponsor. If a site promotes Linux in a meaningful way, and can have a real impact on things, we're interested.
We have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Reiser4, the amazing, "unbreakable" new version of the open source ReiserFS file system which will be included in our next release of LindowsOS. Our CEO, Michael Robertson, was also a big financial supporter of ReiserFS when he was CEO of MP3.com. We have also spent tens of thousands of dollars as the sole sponsor and financier for Nvu, an ftp-integrated, ultra easy-to-use web authoring system, ala Dreamweaver and Frontpage. I've been running an alpha copy of Nvu on my computer and and it's an awesome program! Nvu will be offering downloads of the first beta release within the next few weeks. We're very proud and excited to see this project coming to life.
We support open source in many ways that go unnoticed, simply because we don't broadcast everything we help with. We want to help to see these projects succeed, not to give ourselves a pat on the back. We finally did, however, put up a web page that lists our contributions, because some people were assuming we didn't do much in this area. You can find that page at http://lindows.com/opensource. Considering we're not profitable and lose money each month, I'm very happy with the amount of support we give to open source projects.
Finally, but perhaps most important, I'll add that Linux needs more than just more lines of code. The more people who start using Linux, the more developers it will attract to it. (Ask any Palm OS developer about this dynamic.) So, Linux also needs marketing, distribution, education, leadership, vision, and so on. I'd like to think Lindows.com is doing a great deal in this area. Every day hundreds of new people are seeing Linux pop up on their new computer. We think that's a very good thing for Linux.