Lindows: Low-Cost Linux for the Masses

It's safe to say that Microsoft's leadership role on the home desktop reinforces its grip on the corporate desktop, and vice versa.

Its safe to say that Microsofts leadership role on the home desktop reinforces its grip on the corporate desktop, and vice versa. If Linux is ever to capture a chunk of the desktop market, the open-source operating system will have to stake out a space in the home, as well as in the enterprise. Enter Lindows, which is supposed to be an inexpensive Linux distribution appropriate for use by the uninitiated.

In eWeek Labs tests, we found that Inc.s Lindows Version 2 is on the right track for easy use by the masses and stands to begin winning over home users when it reaches its third iteration, the so-called General Release, in the next few months.

KDE 3, the desktop environment for Lindows 2.0, matches Windows fairly closely in its appearance and operation. The interface is more utilitarian than attractive, and Lindows would do well to take some fit-and-finish cues from Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat 8.0 release (see review, above), but its getting there.

Lindows crown jewel is its Click-N-Run Warehouse. Users can simply download and install any of a large catalog of Click-N-Run Warehouse applications. Most of these applications are freely available elsewhere, which has some questioning the $99 annual fee that Lindows plans to charge for the service, but the scheme offers real value to home users by streamlining the process of finding and installing needed applications. The service can also be invaluable simply because it ensures speedy downloads.

Lindows has gone out of its way to make the process easy—perhaps too far. To make software installation as painless as possible, Lindows has followed Microsofts lead in starting users out as root, analogous to Administrator in Windows.

The developers at Lindows ought to turn to their brethren in the Linux distribution business, whove shown that requesting root access from the user when its required can be accomplished fairly smoothly and with little confusion.

The other big-name feature in Lindows, albeit one for which the company has been backpedaling on its initial promises, is the capacity to run Windows applications through Wine, an open-source implementation of the Windows APIs.

Based on what weve seen, Lindows is no panacea for Windows/Linux application compatibility, but the operating system does a better job of integrating Wine than any other Linux distribution weve tested.

If the improvements that Lindows underwent moving from its much-maligned Version 1 to Version 2 are a fair indication of its rate of development, the Lindows General Release should make waves in the value desktop space and give Linux a lucrative, low-end foothold.