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Lindows vs. Windows

Will users go for a Lindows subscription?

Making a great push to combat Microsoft’s dominance of desktop computing, LindowsOS aims to provide a cheap operating system that runs Windows applications, and just happens to be a version of Linux.

Created by Michael Robertson of MP3.com fame, LindowsOS has a name designed to sound very much like Windows-so much so that Microsoft sued the company over the name (and lost, at least for the first round.)

Unlike most Linux distributions, which assume that servers are where the money is, LindowsOS focuses on desktop Linux and is trying to go head-to-head against Microsoft Windows, especially in the very low-end, sub-$500 U.S. PC market.

A recent deal with Walmart.com should help a lot in this area. You can purchase Intel PCs from the retail giant with LindowsOS pre-installed. Wal-Mart’s massive presence really helps.

So does the fact that Linux comes pre-installed, which removes one of the greatest barriers to running Linux in the first place. Most users simply run the operating system that comes with their computers, and for the vast majority of users, that operating system is some form of Windows.

With Linux pre-installed, users don’t need to worry about disk partitions, hardware support or other issues. Even so, the stock LindowsOS claims to install in about five minutes.

In addition to removing the installation barrier, the LindowsOS folks have done a lot of work to make LindowsOS look familiar, in other words, look more like Microsoft Windows. LindowsOS screens are also a lot less complex than normal Linux versions. For example, when booting, you don’t see all sorts of obscure technical messages that you do with other Linux distributions.

Furthermore, LindowsOS highlights its ability to run Microsoft Windows applications. The Lindows.com Web site lists the applications that they have tested. In addition, LindowsOS highlights OpenOffice.org, a near drop-in replacement, for Microsoft Office.

Lindows.com, the company behind LindowsOS, is doing a lot of work to try to make Linux seem easier to users as well. The Web site aims to answer the most common Linux questions while promoting LindowsOS.

Lindows.com looks to make money by selling a subscription service for $99. You sign up, pay your money and then you can download pre-built Linux applications from the Lindows.com Web site. LindowsOS itself comes with few applications. This is very different than the normal model for Linux distributions, which tend to come with over a thousand applications, usually distributed on multiple CD-ROMs.

I think in the end that this revenue model will fail. Users purchasing a low-end PC don’t want to spend another $99 on software, software that you have to download over the Web. Even so, it is great to see more efforts to strengthen desktop Linux.

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