The desktop may be the final frontier for Linux, but one company is using a combination of Windows interface strategy, Wal-Mart sales and a wide selection of software to try to match the inroads Linux has made in the corporate datacenter. That company is Lindows.com.
Novell’s acquisition of SuSE Linux, Big Blue’s commitment to the open-source operating system on the desktop and Red Hat’s exit from the free Linux marketplace all made headlines at this week’s Desktop Linux Conference in Massachusetts. But the bigger news is the increasing delivery of Linux preloaded on desktop computers, according to Lindows.com president and chief operating officer Kevin Carmony, who spoke with LinuxInsider in an exclusive interview.
“This is an exciting time for Linux on the desktop,” Carmony said. “Here at Lindows.com we eat, sleep and drink Linux on the desktop. It’s all we do, and we think that sole dedication to the desktop shows in our products.”
LinuxInsider: How has the company’s situation changed most since you started business in September 2001?
Kevin Carmony: The biggest change in the last two years is that we are seeing tremendous interest by computer builders in selling computers preloaded with LindowsOS. We knew this would take some time to get there, and it’s finally starting to really happen in a significant way.
LI: What is the outlook for the next couple of years?
KC: Terrific. The technology is starting to settle in, and now it’s about marketing into the distribution channels, which we’re seeing great success with.
LI: Is Linux really ready for the desktop?
KC: I’d say it’s ready for many desktop users. For those who need “basic computing” — Web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, word processing, spreadsheets and so on — it’s a better experience than [Windows] XP. If, however, you have highly specialized needs — like games — it still has a ways to go. However, since millions can use it today for basic computing, Linux will start to see tremendous growth on the desktop, bringing more development, which will round out any missing pieces.
LI: What is the pace of uptake of systems sold at Wal-Mart — or the revenue reaped from sales of Lindows desktop systems?
KC: Let’s just say we’re very pleased.
LI: Which parts of Lindows are its crown jewels?
KC: I’d have to say (1) Click-and-Run, (2) ease of use, (3) the management team and (4) dedication of our employees to this mission — that of bringing Linux to the desktop.
LI: In what areas do you think Lindows still needs more work?
KC: The real battles lie more in educating the marketplace about Linux as a viable option for the desktop. On the technology front, I can’t share more, but we have some very exciting things coming out over the next six months.
LI: Are people using the Click-and-Run warehouse?
KC: Absolutely! It took us about one year to get our millionth Click-and-Run download. It then took us a few months to get our second millionth CNR. We are now approaching doing nearly a million CNRs per month, and that number is growing steadily.
LI: What percent of people who buy Lindows systems are using it?
KC: The majority. We do have a lot of early adopters that just like to look at all things Linux, but fortunately because hundreds of computers are sold every day with LindowsOS preinstalled, most of those people become users and fans of LOS.
LI: How many developers do you have working on making applications for the Click-and-Run warehouse?
KC: Well, technically this would include all developers working on open-source Linux applications, especially for Debian, so that would be thousands.
LI: What do you think of the Novell-SuSE acquisition?
KC: It’s good to see companies moving into their specialties. Red Hat is great for servers. SuSE/Novell will probably specialize with enterprise. Lindows.com will continue to focus exclusively on the desktop.
LI: What do you think about Red Hat abandoning the desktop?
KC: That’s like asking what do I think about Michael Jordan leaving baseball. Red Hat was never very serious about the desktop space, so this announcement didn’t change anything really.
LI: What do you think of Longhorn, based on published reports so far?
KC: We won’t see Longhorn until 2005 at the earliest. By that time, I really believe desktop Linux will have the advantage when you take cost, stability and security into account. LindowsOS is progressing at a blistering pace, and it will be doing some amazing things by 2005.
LI: When is the next version of Lindows due out?
KC: Version 4.5 is due out later this year.