Xandros acquires Linspire

Published Jul 2, 2008 — 271 views

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.

Linspire eventually offered both commercial (Linspire) and community-supported (“Freespire“) versions of its Linux OS, which recently became based on Ubuntu repositories.

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.

The acquistion

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.

The significance?

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.

4 responses to “Xandros acquires Linspire”

  1. Rayne says:

    But you forgot to mention that Linspire had a partnership with Canonical dating from last year and switched from a Debian base to an Ubuntu base for Freespire and, thus, Linspire OS.

    So Xandros, which would inherit Linspire’s deal with Canonical, could switch their OS (which is currently Debian-based) to a Freespire base, thus making Xandros OS Ubuntu-based (they’ll still keep Linspire as a distinct brand). Sorta like how Dell bought out Alienware and integrated Alienware’s IP into their XPS line.

    Thus, Ubuntu would practically be in on the eeePC action, which couldn’t have come at a more opportune time, since Canonical’s releasing the MID and Netbook Remix versions that are being pushed by Intel, which is also helping out with the eeePC.

    So I disagree that this buyout will have a negligible or nonexistent effect on desktop Linux distros. It should definitely further entrench the Ubuntu platform (which, as seen in the last two years, is an increasingly attractive platform for distro vendors and app developers to build upon) into the subnotebook arena.

  2. deviceguru says:

    Thanks for mentioning that.

    However, keep in mind that Xandros didn’t need to acquire Linspire in order to move to Ubuntu base. If they wanted to do that, they could already have done it. So, I don’t think this acquisition is about merging Xandros + Ubuntu. Besides, IMO Xandros is a far better KDE distro than Kubuntu.

    On the other hand, one never knows……. 😉

  3. Rayne says:

    The reason why Xandros didn’t switch their OS to Ubuntu was because it was a founding member of the Debian Common Core Alliance (of which Linspire was a part until Linspire switched to an Ubuntu base). The DCCA was practically written off last year as moribund since other members, including Progeny Linux (Ian Murdock’s startup), have either folded or disappeared from view, even though Xandros had issued a press release saying that it was still active.

    Also, Xandros had inherited their OS from Corel back around 2002, so maybe they were trying to keep some deal with Corel concerning the marketing of Corel Linux until only recently. I was wondering what was keeping Xandros so long to switch to an Ubuntu base after Linspire, MEPIS and other former Debian-based desktop vendors had switched to an Ubuntu base, or at least make known their own position in comparison to Canonical’s Ubuntu.

    I surmise that they’re going to use Freespire in the same way that Novell uses openSUSE or Red Hat uses Fedora, and were probably waiting to obtain a desktop-oriented community distribution to do the heavy lifting, compared to having to rely on Debian (which is seen as more of a general-purpose distribution than a specifically-desktop-oriented distribution) for the same. To move to a plain Ubuntu base, also, may not have been as good a move as simply buying out a veteran that used a custom Ubuntu community base with commercial trimmings.

    So it could go like this: Xandros OS (with Xandros commercial stuff) -> Linspire subsidiary OS (with Linspire commercial stuff) -> Freespire community OS (Linspire sans the more proprietary bits) -> Ubuntu community OS.

    Compared to the alternative: Xandros OS (Xandros commercial stuff) -> Ubuntu community desktop OS.

    Or the previous situation: Xandros OS (Xandros commercial stuff) -> Debian community general OS.

    It’s all about negotiation and inheritance, and Xandros (like most public companies) wants to inherit as much as possible from whatever’s been siphoned into the hierarchy from outside sources, leaving negotiation with the outside community distros to the subsidiaries, which then leave the heavy lifting of development to those community distros which primarily consist of employees from the company, which then gain from the heavier lifting done by another community distro, and so on. In other words, Xandros wants to gain from Linspire what Linspire gains from Freespire what Freespire gains from Ubuntu (what Ubuntu gains from Debian, save with a desktop-oriented savvy).

    And sure, the current Xandros OS may do better with KDE (+ Xandros-specific customizations) than Kubuntu has (I haven’t tried it), but Linspire OS also used a customized and branded KDE; with that switch to an Ubuntu base, Linspire might as well have been a company-branded Kubuntu version. So since Linspire has been bought out by Xandros, I think an Ubuntu-based Xandros OS won’t look that much different from the previous KDE-based Xandros OS versions.

  4. sunny beach says:

    Xandros was actually the very first Linux distribution I ever (knowingly) used, something like three or four years ago. While it had some quirks I don’t appreciate now that I notice them (they renamed Amarok to “Xandros Music Player”), it had solid integration with Windows and a decent looking setup and was overall good for a new user. Since, I’ve moved on to other distributions, of course, but Xandros will always have a tad bit of nostalgia for me. 🙂