Linspire Chairman Frustrated By Futility Of Desktop Linux, Rebuts Carmony

Michael Robertson says Microsoft's imposing lead in the desktop market means Linux should look to next-gen devices for growth.
Michael Robertson, chairman of Linspire, said the assets of his company were sold to Xandros after "years of frustration in trying to achieve the goal of desktop Linux."

Robertson couldn't disclose the terms of the deal with Xandros, a rival Linux distributor, but said Linspire's Click'N'Run download technology would fit in well with Xandros' own bid to establish Linux on end-user machines. To date, its biggest success has been on the Asus Eee PC, a small notebook with long battery life and a low price tag from Taiwanese laptop maker Asustek Computer. It comes with either Xandros Linux or Windows XP.

"Trying to compete with Microsoft on the desktop has been a futile effort. What the last 20 years has shown is that the Microsoft ecosystem goes far beyond Windows" into thousands of drivers for PC devices and applications to run on end-user machines. For Linux to match that may be impossible, he said.

But next-generation devices, including the Asus Eee PC, smartphones, and other mobile devices may yet prove a lucrative end-user market for Linux. "Linux has to look at new markets," he said.

Robertson also addressed former Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony's call for a stockholders meeting after the sale to consider distribution of Linspire assets. Many Linspire employees bought stock in the company through stock options, Robertson said. Carmony claims there are still 100 such stockholders in existence. Robertson said Linspire assets resulting from the sale will be divided among stockholders, as with any other company sale.

But he also warned that Linspire's preferred stockholders were at the head of the line, having provided the money that financed the startup of Linspire. Carmony and other purchasers are not holders of preferred Linspire stock, he said. He had no comment on why Carmony left the company July 31, 2007, other than to note he had "resigned abruptly."

Carmony has called for a stockholders meeting, but Robertson said Delaware law, under which Linspire was chartered, only requires a majority of the stockholders to approve the sale, not a public meeting on the sale or a higher-than-majority vote in favor of selling. No stockholders meeting is in the works, he said.

Linspire once went by the name Lindows and has existed as a company for six to seven years. Its 10-person engineering staff is still located in Linspire's former San Diego offices and will remain there as part of Xandros, said Robertson.

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