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Taking the Geek Out of Linux -- A talk with Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows.com --

Taking the Geek Out of Linux -- A talk with Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows.com --

If you're looking for a David and Goliath story, you don't need to look any further than Michael Robertson, CEO of Lindows.com. As the first major player trying to sell Linux desktop computers in a retail environment, he's felt the full wrath of Microsoft's fury, including a lawsuit claiming that Lindow violates Microsoft's trademark on the Windows name. In this "sneak peek" of an upcoming interview in LinuxWorld Magazine senior editor James Robertson talks to Michael about the future of Linux on the desktop, the struggle to de-geekify the operating system, and what it's like to go up against the largest software company in the world.

LWM: For a medium- to large-size company contemplating a transition to Linux, one of their concerns is going to be, "Who is our IT support safety net?"

Robertson: First of all, it's important to assess where things are today. If you have a Microsoft product, it doesn't mean you get to call Microsoft. You have to pay Microsoft if you want to call them and talk to them. The point here is that there's no free support from Microsoft, in fact if you want to call Microsoft there's no one to call.

The interesting dynamic here is that if you buy our office suite, which happens to be StarOffice, you actually get free telephone support in 24 languages, which you don't get if you buy Microsoft Office. So the ironic twist here is that the new kids on the block, the StarOffices of the world, have said "we have to provide better support than Microsoft to be able to win customers over." Theres an interesting flip here, that you can get free support from a Linux-based software developer, be it the OS or the application, often as part of the basic license, without having to engage in any service contract. If you do need additional support beyond that, of course, there are lots of organizations that you can pay to get that. And because a lot of the software is open source, you're not beholden to any one company who can charge you whatever they want. Bottom line, there's better support options for desktop Linux out of the box today.

LWM: Some recent reports have indicated that while Linux has a lower deployment cost than Windows, it may have higher support costs. Robertson: That's propaganda from Microsoft. When you commission a study, pay them enough money and they'll come up with any conclusion you want. Let's look at the numbers. Microsoft makes 1 million dollars of profit per month selling two products, the OS and the office suite. Now Microsoft can come up with all the studies they want saying they're cheaper that the alternative, but it's complete nonsense.

LWM: For an enterprise, what would be the advantages to moving to a desktop Linux strategy?

Robertson: Cost. Cost is the number one reason. You can expect to spend one-eighth of the cost of a Microsoft PC for a similarly equipped desktop Linux PC running Lindows OS. The second advantage is much easier maintenance and support. And I say that because they never have to deal with serial numbers, activation codes, product databases; they never need to deal with any of that because most of our products are flat-fee licenses. That's the accounting, logistical side of things. There's also the technical side of things; if you were here, I could should you how I can set up a new computer, click one button, and install 14 programs that we use as a standard distribution here at Lindows.com. You can't do that on Microsoft, right? Set up your computer, and click one button, and say "OK, you're ready to go." There are dramatic upfront savings, and then on the technical front and logistical front, additional savings and advantages for desktop Linux.

Read more, including Michael Robertson's thoughts on Microsoft's strategy, in the premier issue of LWM, on newsstands in August or click here to subscribe.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
Metiscus 06/23/03 07:23:00 PM EDT

Microsoft is not going to back down, they cant afford to. They spread rumors, they write incompatible software, they strongarm hardware manufacturers into supporting their os, they corrupt government officials, they probably buy seats in the congress if the truth was known. They are on top, and they will take any means, no matter how ruthless to undermine the better products. It is obvious that linux has found it's place on the internet, apache and linux will forever be ahead of IIS and nt,xp,server2003. It isnt a matter of who is better, over the years many of the best products have fallen to more pubilcitized lesser products. Linux has taken the role as the best os for servers and a strong upcommer in the desktop field, what linux needs now is strong publicity, and it needs an organization to organize the software companies to support and write software for it. Linux is spread over so many venues and has so many flavors, but all of them are pretty similar and they all are superior to MS anything. Openoffice.org and the various other suites of that nature have an incredible product. In short, linux can not stand silently and be the better product, someone has to fight Microsoft on the battlefields that Microsoft can be beaten on. Microsoft has a lot of money, but their software is very expensive, the freeness and stability of linux cant be beaten by any ms product, and for the future of the OS community and linux, linux has to be brought into competition on those grounds in the eyes of the public.

Jack 06/06/03 04:19:00 AM EDT

Ya, it is time to 'unlock' ourselves from MS monopoly by endorsing the open source model. The more we use the open source the more bargaining power and control we gain at our consumer level.

Jim Allyn 06/06/03 01:43:00 AM EDT

I regularly use Open Office and Star Office to open Word and Excel documents. Never had any need to open a Project document, so I don't know if there's anything other than gatesware that will open them, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were. As far as having to use IE to read the story, I can't imagine why you would have to do that. I didn't try it with Netscape, since I don't have it installed on this particular computer, but the page displayed perfectly in Opera, Konqueror, Mozilla, and the Xandros File Manager (XFM).

I certainly have to agree with these two statements:

"The Judge should have forced the break-up."

"Ms is a poorly run company with little interest in a quality product."

If people send you microsoft proprietary format documents that you can't open, explain to them that you refuse to contribute to the microsoft monopoly by buying their lousy software, and that they will have to send it to you in a non-proprietary format that can be opened on any computer. And give them a few words of explanation on why they shouldn't contribute to the microsoft monopoly, either. Works for me.

Westall H. Parr 06/05/03 09:48:00 PM EDT

The arguemets sound very good - the problem though is that we live in a world where we exchange information with other people and those other people are using WORD, EXCEL and PROJECT.

Makes it all but impossible for me to take up the Linux offer for office level work.

Servers and backroom stuff - We will be there.

Let me give you a perfect example. I am still a Netscape user but I had to move over to IE to read this article.

The Judge shoukd have forced the break-up.

Ms is a poorly run company with little interest in a quality product.

Just send them money so they can send us buggy software that is compromised at the security level every day.

My thoughts.


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