New Lindows reaching out to users, resellers

Linspire CEO Michael Robertson is building a new channel program, but one reseller isn't sold on the business model.

SAN DIEGO -- Michael Robertson, outspoken CEO of the re-branded Linspire Inc., told attendees at last week's Desktop Linux Summit that Linux has reached the point where it's less important to add new features than it is to reach customers.

"We've moved from becoming a technology exercise to being a marketing exercise," Robertson said.

Robertson said his company, which sells a desktop version of Linux, is focused on building a distribution channel in the hope that users will exclusively use the OS on their computers.

We've moved from becoming a technology exercise to being a marketing exercise.
Michael Robertson
CEOLinspire Inc.

Separately Linspire is hedging its bet on its software warehouse called Click-N-Run, where users can buy office suites, development environments, games and multimedia devices. CNR is central to the company's strategy of making Linux easy to deploy and use, Robertson said.

However, David van Enckevort, Linux project manager for reseller Mensys in the Netherlands, was cautious about Linspire's business model, given his position as a reseller.

"If you look at the business model of Lindows.com, they have one major source of income, the CNR warehouse subscriptions," he said. "This subscription model puts a lot of pressure on the relationship between the vendor and the reseller, since it basically cuts off the possibility of a repeat sale for the reseller. Therefore, for the reseller, it is important to find possibilities to offer added value."

Formerly known as Lindows, Linspire has been involved in a trademark dispute with Microsoft. Robertson argued in courts in the U.S. and abroad to keep the original name, on the logic that Microsoft had used generic words, such as "office," as a trademark. That defense began to cave in when a judge in the Netherlands ruled in favor of Microsoft last month.

"Microsoft forced our hand," Robertson said. "One of the key ways we want to grow is to get Linspire everywhere."

Robertson said he couldn't detail much of Linspire's strategy going forward, because the company filed its S1 statement last Tuesday, in anticipation of going public in the near future. S1 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission are the first step in an initial public stock offering.

Linspire's distribution channel includes a partnership with Seagate Technology Inc. that should help Linspire reach a worldwide market with pre-installed Linspire computers. Robertson said that here in the U.S., companies are more concerned with interoperability and support.

Robertson said Linspire is trying to make it "mind-numbingly easy" for anyone in the world to buy software they want at the touch of a button. "CNR is really the secret sauce."

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