Bad blood over Linspire's sale to Xandros

Linspire's former CEO, Kevin Carmony, isn't holding back in his criticism of the sale.

One of the first commercial Linux distributions aimed at the average computer user, Linspire, has just been sold to Xandros and undergone a name change to Digital Cornerstone. Xandros may not be very commonly known, but it is the distro being used by Asus on the EeePC.

Since forming in 2001, under the name Lindows, the focus of the Linux distro that has been marketed by the company is to provide an integrated means of running Windows applications from within the Linux desktop along with a seamless and painless means to obtain new software and update existing tools. This was achieved through a Debian-based core system using WINE, complete with a fee-based 'apt'-derived package distribution and installation tool, called CNR (Click And Run), which has since been released for use by other Linux distributions. A Windows-like desktop was also an attempt to ease the average computer user into the new environment.

In 2002 the company was sued by Microsoft on the basis that "Lindows" could be considered an infringement of Microsoft's "Windows" trademark. Despite losing the case and attempting to get a retrial, Microsoft settled out of court with Linspire and the resulting licensing agreement saw the "Lindows" trademark transferred to Microsoft and the company renamed to Linspire. It is believed that US$20 million was paid by Microsoft to Linspire as part of the process.

Other key points in the company's history were in June 2005 when the company's founder, Michael Robertson, stood down as CEO. Kevin Carmony, his replacement, stayed in the job for two years, resigning at the end of July 2007. In this period Linspire announced that its software would now be based on Ubuntu, instead of Debian, and also released a free version.

It is Kevin Carmony who is now vocally complaining about the recent sale of the company. Through his personal blog, Carmony complains that the sale was a "Secret Backroom Deal" that took place without shareholder consultation, but this is permissible under the corporation rules -- action can be taken on majority consent without notification of minority holders. Carmony asserts that the company was profitable under his stead and that Robertson has sold the company to liquidate what he can from the company. He also asserts that he was being pushed out of the company when he tried to block Robertson issuing a special dividend that would only go to himself and his father-in-law.

Carmony has also turned his attention to the new owners, Xandros, and has criticised the responses that Xandros' CEO gave following the deal.

Every man has his price, and it seems that Carmony is prepared to forgive and forget if his shares end up valued at $0.50 or better (what it was when he left the company).

Over the years the company has been the target of significant criticism from different Open Source luminaries for their deviation from FOSS principles, but the company has defended its actions by claiming that the average user just wants something that works, even if it includes proprietary or commercial software that doesn't quite fit within FOSS principles.

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Carl Jongsma

Computerworld
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