Watch out Windows—here comes Lindows

Will LindowsOS become a popular alternative operating system for image processing?

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Th 101937
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Andrew Wilson, Editor, andyw@pennwell.com

Will LindowsOS become a popular alternative operating system for image processing?

At least six major software packages are available for performing image processing, visualization, and analysis (see Vision Systems Design, June 1999, p.10, or www.vision-systems.com). These include XITE from the University of Oslo (Oslo, Norway), Amira from Indeed Visual Concepts (Berlin, Germany), IRAF from the National Optical Astronomy Observatories (Tucson, AZ), and GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program; www.gimp.org).

Recently, the Linux operating system (OS) has grown in popularity. Just two months ago, in fact, Lindows.com Inc. (San Diego, CA; www.Lindows.com) announced LindowsOS, which, according to Michael Robertson, CEO, is the first "broadband" Linux-based operating system that also can run under Windows.

To use this OS, developers, integrators, and resellers must sign up for the company's "Builders" licensing program, which charges $500/month to developers who can then ship an unlimited number of computers running LindowsOS. Users of LindowsOS can install applications from the company's Click-N-Run Warehouse Web site. According to the company, the site holds hundreds of applications and programs that are "free" to a select group of "insiders" that "guide" Lindows.com's direction with their feedback for a $99/year membership fee.

Lindows.com has released three incomplete products that showcase an OS installation alongside Microsoft Windows and Click-N-Run. To make LindowsOS readily available, the company is offering the OS on eight different computers from Microtel (City of Industry, CA), including the 850-MHz Duron-based PC, which features a preinstalled e-mail program, word processor, Web browser/file manager, and Microsoft's PowerPoint Viewer, Word Viewer, and Excel Viewer.

But, as many industry analysts have pointed out, LindowsOS is not new. The software is based on the Xandros OS from Xandros Corp. (Ottawa, Ont., Canada), which, in turn, is based on the Linux OS from Corel (Ottawa, Ont., Canada), which, in turn, is based on Debian (www.debian.org), a free operating system that uses the Linux kernel.

Despite the fact that Debian users can access thousands of development tools and software packages for free, Michael Robertson's cost-conscious company may yet bring Linux to the masses. He has proven willing to battle and beat Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) in court. A Seattle, WA, judge, asked by Microsoft to shut down Lindows.com and block the company from advertising LindowsOS, issued a denial to Microsoft. A jury trial is slated for April 2003.

"Right now we don't provide any additional manuals with our operating system," admits John Bromhead, Lindows.com vice president of marketing. "And developing drivers requires the same knowledge as any Debian-based Linux system. But we are confident that the additional work we have done to make the whole experience point-and-click will encourage people to use LindowsOS."

Initial beta testers haven't found the experience easy. "If LindowsOS is installed along with Windows, it will pull up a list of your Windows programs, and the Lindows' site says, "maybe they'll work, maybe they won't," but it promises they will with the release of 1.0," says Tina Gasperson at NewsForge.Com. "And it is going to be interesting to see how well Xandros' own distribution works when it is finally released. If nothing else, this early version will give LindowsOS and Michael Robertson credibility with the Linux community and boost Xandros' visibility," she says.

Does this remind you of something that happened 20 years ago? At that time, Tim Patterson wrote an OS called DOS for the Seattle Computer Products 8086-based computer and showed it to Microsoft. After purchasing the rights to sell it to a then-unnamed client (IBM), Microsoft bought all the rights to DOS and renamed it MS-DOS. Will Michael Robertson be the new Bill Gates? Certainly he has started out on the same marketing approach.

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