Lindows vs. Windows: Round 3.0
Today, Robertson is taking on Microsoft and Windows with Lindows OS, a Linux-based operating system whose similar name prompted Microsoft to
Much of what's new in Lindows OS 3 relates to Click-N-Run Warehouse, a virtual Net-based warehouse of Linux applications that's built into the operating system. Designed to address Linux's reputation for software installation hassles, Click-N-Run offers hundreds of third-party Linux applications organized into categories such as Business & Finance, Desktop Enhancements, and Home & Education.
Why would anyone pay for access to applications that are often available elsewhere for free? Robertson contends that the convenience of Click-N-Run's one-stop shopping and simple interface are worth the money.
"It's like changing your oil--the vast majority of us would rather go to Jiffy Lube," he says. And some of the Click-N-Run applications, such as Sun's StarOffice 6, aren't free elsewhere.
Some applications are mammoth downloads--StarOffice weighs in at 172MB--and not all Lindows OS users have broadband. So Lindows version 3 ships with a second CD-ROM that includes cached versions of many Click-N-Run applications, minimizing download time for dial-up users.
Click-N-Run delivers "my products in my library on my machine, with persistent network install and a lifetime license," Robertson says. And it has more in common with his previous startup MP3.com than is apparent at first blush.
"MP3.com was about what happens when you digitally distribute all your music. [Lindows.com] is about what happens when you digitally distribute all software," he says.
As for the Lindows OS's original claim to fame--its stated goal of
"Windows application support isn't important, but we've got to support Windows file servers and print servers, and when you double-click on a PowerPoint file, it's got to do the right thing. And we do that," he says.
Still, Robertson concedes that work remains to be done. Gaming is a weak spot: "If you want to run Half-Life, we can't give you a competitive experience," he says.
And support for some peripherals, such as digital cameras, remains spotty. However, Robertson says that progress is on the way as Linux pops up on more major companies' radar screens. "You've got companies like NVidia focused on Linux support, and that wasn't always the case."
Lindows OS is available as a $129 shrink-wrapped product that includes both the operating system and full access to the Click-N-Run library. But the OS has garnered much of its attention for being preinstalled on
Coming bundled on PCs is key to Lindows OS's success, Robertson says. "If Linux is going to crack the Microsoft headlock, it's got to be preinstalled." And Lindows OS must be cheaper: "It all boils down to affordability," he says. Robertson quotes a $427 price for a Lindows OS-based PC with a 17-inch monitor and StarOffice, versus $479 for Microsoft Office alone.
Lindows OS-based PCs are the best sellers at WalMart.com, according to Robertson, who says that such machines will show up in additional venues in 2003. TigerDirect recently began offering Lindows OS-based systems, and a company called StepUp Computing has announced a $699 tablet computer running the OS.
Also scheduled for 2003: the trial for the trademark infringement suit that Microsoft has cast against Lindows.com, based on the contention that its name may confuse consumers. Earlier this year, Microsoft failed to get an injunction that would have prevented Lindows OS from shipping under that name at all, and Robertson says that Lindows.com will continue to fight for its moniker: "We've asked the judge to invalidate the trademark."
With or without the Lindows name, Robertson admits that going head to head with Bill Gates won't be easy. In the software world, "we've had this ethnic cleansing. Everybody got wiped out except Microsoft." And the battle is decidedly unbalanced: "I have 43 people in my company--Microsoft has 15,000 people in the Windows division."
Even so, Robertson says that people who know about Lindows OS will find it a compelling alternative. He plans to continue to spread the word at the