posted by David Adams on Tue 4th Jan 2005 17:22 UTC
IconOSNews "sat down" with Linspire CEO Michael Robertson for a Q&A about his company's efforts as the banner-carrier for Linux-on-the-desktop. We discussed the upcoming Linux Desktop Summit in San Diego and the perceptions and realities of the obstacles to widespread desktop Linux use. Linspire also extended a special offer to OSNews readers: a free download of Linspire and a 30 day CNR subscription, so put yourself in Granny's shoes (not literally, please) and give it a try. Correction: The free offer expires on January 15.

Special offer for OSNews readers: A free download of Linspire and 30 days of CNR service, available through this link. The offer expires on January 15, so act fast.


OSNews: Tell us about the Desktop Linux Summit. Who will be there, and what will you be talking about?

linspire-michael.jpg Michael Robertson: This is our 3rd year sponsoring the Summit and it will be held Feb. 9-11th, 2005 in sunny San Diego and is the best conference value going. A $99 registration fee gains complete access to this 3-day event and includes food and a t-shirt. See to register. This is not a money maker for Linspire obviously, but we think it's critically important to bring all the parties related to desktop Linux together once a year. We did this same thing when I was the CEO of with the annual MP3 Summit, which was instrumental in the proliferation of the digital music space.

Our speaker list includes Mitch Kapor of Lotus fame and Rob Glaser, CEO of Real Networks plus many more popular speakers we've had in years past. New this year is a half day dedicated to where OpenOffice 2.0 and a Microsoft Access replacement will be on display. Another half day will be dedicated to Mozilla technologies including Firefox and Thunderbird. We'll have Mitchell Baker, President of Mozilla Foundation speaking. We've got great sponsors lined up including most of the leaders in the Linux business, but we're probably most excited about new companies like AMD and Real Networks who want to help Linux grow. It's such a huge job, we need to cultivate an industry, not a company to make desktop Linux a reality. That's the goal of the Desktop Summit.

OSN: Linspire seems to be trying to take up the banner of Linux on the desktop, with your sponsorship of the Desktop Linux Summit, in particular. Conventional wisdom these days is still "Linux is great on the server, but far from ready for desktop use." I'd like to throw out some of the main arguments against Linux being ready for the desktop, and get your reaction to them:

MR: We would agree that the conventional wisdom has been "Linux is great on servers, but not ready for the desktop." It's true when we started Linspire, the quality and number of applications for Linux was meager, but there's been a dramatic change the last few years that's nothing short of revolutionary. Firefox,, Lsongs, Lphoto, The Gimp, Nvu, KDE, and many other initiatives have made incredible strides which now make Linux practical on the desktop. Our goal now is to educate people how the world has changed. We often point people to the CNR (click-n-run) Warehouse where they can browse all the titles available today for Linux. See: All of which can be installed with one click. Desktop Linux is now easier then Microsoft Windows to add, remove and keep updated software programs.

OSN: First issue: Limited support for any peripheral device a user might pick up at the local computer store, and difficulty in implementing that support even if it's available.

MR: This is another area where users will be pleasantly surprised if they give Linux a try. Peripheral manufactures and software developers have done a solid job of supporting a wide range of devices from USB drives to digital cameras to ethernet cards. We launched a site called Lfriendly to help people locate and understand the wealth of supported devices today for Linux, and it's only getting better.

OSN: Common software is not available on the Linux platform, including popular home software like Quicken and the latest games. Work-alikes that are available, sometimes have limited compatibility.

MR: For most of the popular categories of software, Linux offers several capable options often which can read legacy Microsoft Windows formats. The biggest missing category is high-end games. Fortunately, the trend in this area is towards consoles. $149 will buy an Xbox or Playstation. There are more than 100 million game consoles and now that they are gaining network access I think the migration away from PC games and to more console games will be even faster. Also, there is a growing number of people who simply need an affordable, reliable, virus-free, and secure computer for basic computing, web work, and so on. Linspire is ideal for these users.

OSN: Though Linux is highly customizable, a lot of that customization does not come easy, involves editing configuration files, etc.

MR: All the main applications are now fully graphical. I have used Linspire for several years and haven't edited a configuration file. Editing configuration files was something required a couple of years ago, but not today. Our main goal here at Linspire is to make Linux easy and approachable for anyone. We've all been running Linspire Linux here at our offices with our 85 employees for a couple of years, and go to great lengths to refine any rough edges and make it one-click easy for everyone.

OSN: Because of fragmentation, skills learned on one "Linux" may not translate over to another (Gnome vs KDE, different package management systems, etc).

MR: We ship Linspire with both Gnome and KDE applications. Our IM client is Gaim, but other core applications are KDE. Really the only annoying difference is in the Open/Save dialog box. Hopefully, we can bring these two more together in the future. With Linspire we try to use consistent themes between all the applications, so to the user, they can't really even tell the difference between Gaim, Firefox,, and KDE applications.

As for different package management systems, this is why we created CNR. CNR is not just for installing software programs with one click, but it also handles all updating. An auto-update feature will update one or all the programs on a computer. It couldn't be easier. It's the way computers should work. One click and you're updated. I can setup a new Linspire computer with a custom configuration in just 5 minutes using CNR "aisles." All the messiness of libraries and packages are hidden from the user. It's why Linux is now practical for the Wal-mart customer, education, home, and businesses alike.

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