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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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Hardware and Software

Jo: Which hardware companies would you say have been the most helpful in supporting Linux - through open-source drivers, or closed-source drivers or anything else? And which do you think have been causing the problems? Broadcom's wireless stuff, I know, you can only use under Linux with a wrapper to Broadcom's Windows drivers.

Michael: I think HP have done a terrific job. I'd say, unfortunately, that there are quite a few examples of companies which haven't done a good job. Lexmark is a big example – they haven't released any decent printer drivers, so that's a big one. nVidia and ATI have made an enormous improvement over the past two years. Intel have made a lot of improvement. After Centrino came out with no Linux support, they've finally gotten around to it. AMD, I think, looks at it as a competitive advantage over Intel - they've been terrific.

Michael: It's a numbers game. As long as Linux makes up one or two per cent, it's not a huge opportunity. When it gets into five or 10 per cent, all companies will support it well.

David Ross: With Lexmark, is that ineptitude, or lack of vision, or inability to to do it - meaning they can make the printer, but they might not be able to make the Linux driver. They've been making windows drivers for years and years and years.

Michael: As I understand it, Lexmark outsources printer drivers, and so they pay someone to do it, and they've not chosen to engage someone to make a Linux version. So, it's a cost issue I guess.

Jo: On the look and feel front, I was reading an article on-line suggesting that newcomers to PCs who've never used a computer before are fine with desktop Linux - they have no problems using it at all, they're fine. It's people who are used to Windows who are the sticklers, who don't like using Linux on the desktop. Do you think, given that your target user appears to include the complete novice, that copying the general look, feel and layout of a Windows-type system is the right way to go about things – or do you think that you should be looking to something rather different, perhaps a better design than the Windows 95 start button and taskbar system?

Michael: I think you've got nearly half a billion people who are familiar with Microsoft Windows, so I think it makes more sense to not get futuristic, to not say "I'm gonna try and reinvent the whole PC", that we should stay closer to what people know.

Michael: It's like the QWERTY keyboard. It might not be the best, but it's what everybody knows. Would it be better to have a different keyboard with different keys? Could you type faster? Yes and yes. However, everyone has already memorised QWERTY, so our strategy has been to stay close enough that people don't get lost.

Jo: With Linspire, is there anything where you've looked at another distribution and gone "man, I wish we'd thought of that"? Anything you've spotted in Suse or Red Hat where you've gone "that's a good idea, that's going into Linspire 5.5 or 6"?

Michael: I'd say we've worked hard to catch up to the veterans, the Red Hats and Mandrakes; I think we've largely sucked out most of their good ideas, and probably added a bunch of our own. So I don't think there's anything that stands out today where somebody has us beaten hands-down.

Michael: Do you think there is?

Jo: I've not spent enough time with Linspire, or any with Linspire 5, so can't really comment.