Two highly vocal — though not particularly successful — U.S.-based desktop Linux vendors have become one. The formal announcement that Xandros has acquired Linspire came today, following several days of static on the blogosphere.
San Diego-based Linspire Inc. was founded in 2001 by MP3.com creator Michael Robertson. The company and its desktop Linux OS were originally dubbed “Lindows,” leading to a legal challenge by Microsoft over the latter’s “Windows” trademark. The squabble was eventually settled out of court; Microsoft reportedly paid $20 million to Lindows, and Lindows changed its company and OS name to Linspire.
A unique component of Linspire and Freespire is their “CNR” (Click-N-Run) package management infrastructure. CNR, developed by Linspire Inc., is touted as a “free one-click software delivery service designed to standardize the process and eliminate the complexity of finding, installing and managing Linux software for the most popular desktop Linux distributions, both Debian and RPM based.”
Also founded in 2001, New York-based Xandros Inc.’s stated mission is “to empower Windows-centric businesses to benefit from the flexibility, reliability and security of Linux and open source, without requiring Linux expertise.” The Xandros Desktop operating system, derived from Corel Linux and based on Debian Linux packages, has developed into one of the most easily-installed and Windows-like Linux OSes.
Xandros Inc.’s highest profile success has been Asus’s use of a version of the Xandros Desktop as the OS for the Eee PC, a highly compact, lightweight, low cost, easy-to-use mini notebook PC.
According to today’s announcement by Xandros, the acquisition “further enhances its ability to meet the needs of a growing number of Linux and mobile users for one-click software delivery to update and enhance their devices; for energizing ever larger third party applications development; and for providing access and delivery to users of applications and content from digital warehouses that increase value and user experience.”
Reading between the lines, the acquisition seems to have been driven by Xandros’s interest in gaining Linspire’s CNR package installation and management infrastructure. Beyond Xandros’s success with the Eee PC, neither of the two companies’ desktop Linux distributions have ever achieved much traction among Linux users (see the Linux Foundation’s recent Desktop Linux Survey).
While terms of the deal have not been made public, former Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony broke the news about the sale on his blog on June 30, and then posted two followup articles: one expressing concern over the distribution of proceeds from the sale of Linspire’s assets, and the other critiquing Xandros CEO Andy Typaldos’s Q&A regarding the acquisition.
All in all, two minor desktop Linux distributions becoming one will have negligible impact on the market for desktop Linux. The deal may strengthen Xandros slightly by giving it full ownership of CNR technology and a few other Linspire technologies, which could eventually be beneficial to the Linux-powered Eee PC.
Additionally, Linspire had promoted CNR as a cross-distribution package management infrastructure with the potential to unify package management for all desktop Linux distributions. While Linux certainly could use a unified package management infrastructure, the use of CNR has so far not extended penetrated beyond the Linspire and Freespire distributions.
Red Hat, Novell, and Ubuntu certainly remain secure as the foremost commercially-supported Linux distributions, with Red Hat being strongest in servers, Novell SUSE on enterprise desktops, and Ubuntu/Kubutu on end-user desktops.