Lindows.com CEO pickets Bill Gates speech

What do we want? Syntax. When do we want it?

In a move which The Register feels moved to applaud, Lindows.com CEO Michael Robertson this week took to direct action in his struggle against Microsoft, handing out a two page "Fact Sheet on Bill Gates and the Microsoft Corporation" to the audience prior to a Gates speech at University of California, San Diego. Robertson is himself a UCSD alumni, and therefore had at least arguable turf rights, but no doubt his eye for a stunt carried at least as much weight in the planning of the exercise as any righteous indignation over the alma mater hosting The Enemy.

Whatever, should by some mischance the whole Lindows.com enterprise miscarry, we feel sure Michael will be able to find himself a worthwhile new career dogging Bill's footsteps, ranting and handing out leaflets. Bill's speeches sure as hell need something to liven them up, and custard pies don't last long and are increasingly tricky to smuggle into venues.

Robertson's Fact Sheet, which you'll find here, doesn't tell us anything we didn't know already, but it represents a useful reminder of Microsoft's inglorious and largely innovation-free history, reprising the buy-ins, the breakware and the dirty tricks, and it also covers the role of Bill's personal wealth in furthering The Cause. There are a lot of sites listing Microsoft's ancestral sins around, but this last area's relatively new, and merits more coverage than it's had so far.

Given that Lindows.com is currently locked in litigation with Microsoft, it would seem to us there's a certain synergy involved in the company expanding its fact sheet into an archive. And how about flying pickets, with t-shirts and handing out abusive freebies, at lots of speeches? We're sure this could work.

On a more serious note, Lindows 4.0 is due to ship next month, and as we thought the advanced publicity was a little fact-light (allegedly better than XP, not clear to us why) we asked Robertson, and he responded with a mini-manifesto. We've been sceptical/critical of the operation in the past, so we think it's only fair to give him his 2c:

What do people use their computer for? I'd contend web browsing, email, and IM make up a huge % of time users spend on their computer. In every one of those categories LindowsOS provides a much more feature rich out of the box experience than MSWinXP. Those are significant since this is what users do on their computer a majority of the time.

Browsing - Better display, tabbed browsing, popup ad blocking, integrated find, etc.
IM - Multiple services integrated, tabbed users, embedded spell checking, etc.
Email - Spam filter, embedded images (Outlook can't do this), better text display, etc.

Next most important duty is if they want to add software to their base system. LindowsOS provides one click install of commercial and open source products (with greater than 90% success rate - even for modem users). Also, LindowsOS users are able to perform a major system upgrade with one click. Imagine going from MSWin2000 to XP with a single mouse click. That's what we're doing. For administrators, they can setup CNR to one click an entire library of software. We do this to setup new machines at Lindows.com. Plug in a machine, click one button and an entire suite of software - which they define is ready for use.

Many in the Linux community overlook the complexity required with installing software, but it's a giantic barrier to computer users - especially those considering Linux. We've leap frogged where MS is at and taken the Linux solution to the head of the pack.

So I guess if users don't care about web browsing, email, IM or software installation, or costs, then we don't have many advantages over MSWindowsXP.

As for improvements to desktop Linux, we've made great strides on many fronts. Plug in a flash memory device, hard disk, or CDRom into the USB port and it pops up on the desktop ready for use. This doesn't happen on any other Linux OS. Insert a wifi card or even a USB wifi device and its ready for immediate use.

There are lots of non-sexy, but crucial features to gain wider use from non-technical users. Our studies showed that new users frequently "get lost" on Linux. They end up in some crazy directory or their files end up being saved in some crazy directory. So we invested considerable amount of time normalizing the user experience to always be consistent. Another example would be new users sometimes we're slightly lost on first use. So now a multimedia tutorial launches on first startup to familiarize a user with LindowsOS. There are also many tutorial vignettes so if a user wants to know how to setup email or IM, they're walked through those steps as well. These are likely incredibly mundane and boring to The Register readers, but then again so is AOL even though they have 30MM plus subscribers.

To summarize (my English teacher would have killed me for using that term), LindowsOS has substantial improvements to all the core tasks that computers are used for when compared with MSWinXP. It also brings a list of both crucial features to desktop Linux (widespread plug and play support) as well as a professional polish focusing on ease of use. And did I mention the cost advantages? I'll shut up now.

He has several very good points there, sufficient to make it worth checking how well Lindows 4.0 delivers on them. ®

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