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HEXUS.interviews: Michael Robertson of Linspire Inc.

by Jo Shields on 19 April 2005, 00:00

Tags: Linspire

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The Year of Desktop Linux. Again?

Jo Shields: Every year, for the last 10-odd years, the press have announced that "this is the year of desktop Linux", that everyone will start using it, and so on. Is 2005 another year like that or do you think that, this time, Linux will start to make a real impact?

Michael Robertson: I think, for Linux to reach meaningful numbers, you have to have some more meaningful penetration into more traditional retailers. If the only way to get Linux is to download it from the Internet, to burn it to CD and install it yourself, it'll remain at a 1 or 2% opportunity. I think that getting retailers who will ship pre-installed desktops and laptops is the big wild card. Hopefully that will happen this year, and if it does, I think you'll see Linux grow very rapidly.

Michael: But what I feel Linux needs is not more technology – it needs business development. THAT, you can't do for free on a weekend. You can code for free on a weekend to make Linux better, but you can't do business development on a weekend. So, I think, companies like Linspire will have a good impact - they're helping to make that happen.

Jo: If I go to Tiny, and try to buy a Linspire PC, the "We recommend Microsoft® Windows XP" is in bigger text than the model name, the company name, or anything else - and all I can get as options with the PC are Windows-only Lexmark printers, digital cameras, things like that. How long is it going to take for the companies that are supposedly pro-Linux to start selling hardware and software that IS pro-Linux?

Michael: Yeah, I think that Microsoft has incredible influence over the OEMs today. So, you're not going to change that over night, there has to be a trickle-down effect. So I think it's going to take time, you're going to have to probably have to live with that, "Tiny recommends XP Professional" for many years in the future. But the questions is, are they selling pre-installed computers. If they are, then that's the monumental first major step.

Jo: I've not had a chance to try Linspire 5, though I tried 4.5 briefly. What does Linspire 5 have over 4.5, what are the "amazing" new features that you've added?

Michael: More advanced hardware support, so even some of the high-end nVidia cards should work right out of the box. And there's 802.11 [wireless support] out of the box. So we've really worked hard on the hardware support; we've redone the user interface as well, trying to combine KDE, Mozilla and Gnome-based apps, to give them a similar feel. That's a big thing as well.