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Editor's Note: Linspire Shootout Kit Sounds Good On Paper...

Jun 11, 2004, 23:00 (5 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

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By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

I am not, by anyone's standards, the world's biggest Linspire/Lindows/Lin-whatever-the-heck-they-want-to-call-themselves-this-week fan. While Michael Robertson is an ultra-savvy communicator and corporate player, he tends to play things a little fast and loose when it comes to overpromising and underdelivering.

Note, I said "a little." Having used the Lindows software, I found it to be adequate in the past, but like so many other things, not quite up to the hype. I realize this might be upsetting to any Linspire fans out there, but I fear no wrath, for it all pales before the scathing comments I got last Friday evening... when I was the only one in my family disappointed with the new Harry Potter movie. Boy, did my girls let me have it.

Lindows may have not delivered quite up to their hype, but I have to admit I was very intriqued by their decision this week to bundle the Mandrake and Fedora distributions with Linspire in their Desktop Linux Comparison Kit.

From a marketing standpoint, this looks like a very nice gesture, something akin to the move made by Edmund Gwenn's Kris Kringle character in Miracle on 34th Street when he, as the Macy's Santa Claus, started pointing out great deals on toys at other department stores in Manhattan. Other companies in recent times have used this tactic, usually to positive public response.

Practically, though, I wonder who is going to have time to actually sit down and compare three separate Linux distributions. I used to change flavors all of the time when I was actively reviewing distros, but it was still a time-consuming process at best and if something went wrong, a big pain in the butt at worst.

I will be interested to read the documentation that should come with this Kit to see how Lindows recommends this "desktop shootout" should take place. Clearly, this is a project someone will have to spend a lot of time doing. Which leads me to believe that Lindows may be shifting its product focus of its Linspire distro to more than just the average consumer.

The average consumer, even one who is technically savvy, is little likely to have the time/patience/inclination to run through three full Linux installs, even if they partitioned the heck out of their hard drive(s). Instead, its the professional IT person, who is paid to check this kind of stuff out, who might have the ability and the time to run the gamut of this shootout.

I have to put that qualifier in there, because I am still skeptical that this shootout idea is really practical for any user. But I will allow that Lindows may have shot at getting some IT staffers to try this out.

You might think I am a little late for the clue train here, since Lindows stated in the very press release about this Kit that this would be ideal for "businesses, educational institutions, and computer enthusiasts." Again, just the sort of folks that might actually try out all of these distros. But it is one thing to say your distro is good for business use and it's another to actually do something about it.

Lindows has said for quite some time that its main product is suitable for business, but really hadn't done much about actually making that so. Earlier this year, though, Lindows started announcing that they would be making more of a push to the enterprise. We have just seen another step in that direction.

I would also be interested in seeing the Kit's documentation to see how Linspire will be stacked up against Fedora and Mandrake. I would be hard-pressed to say that Linspire actually approached the full functionality of these two veteran distros--at least with a straight face. But Linspire's documentation will not have such limitations. Certain key aspects of Lindows, such as its intergated WINE functionality and its much-touted software warehouse, will very likely be highlighted more than any other feature, since these are features Fedora and Mandrakelinux don't have, at least, out of the box.

This is all speculation until I actually see the Kit's documentation. Putting up Linspire against Mandrakelinux and Fedora Core is definitely a gutsy move, and perhaps a little foolhardy, at least to hard-core Linux users. To average users who aren't seeking the superior features of a veteran distro, Linspire could have a shot.

If those users have the patience to complete the shootout.

Related Story:
PR: Lindows To Offer Fedora, Mandrake With Its Own(Jun 09, 2004)