Lindows.com Inc. has been popularizing an inexpensive Linux desktop for the public, LindowsOS, for years with low-priced bundles at Wal-Mart, but this year founder and CEO Michael Robertson is planning to introduce LindowsOS Professional, an operating system for business users.
Not that theres much difference in his opinion between business and home operating systems. “People always like to divide Linux distributions into business and home systems, but Microsoft [Corp.] sells identical products to both communities, and we dont see much difference.”
After all, Robertson said, “business users want easy-to-use software too.” That isnt to say, however, that LindowsOS Professional will be the same as todays consumer-oriented LindowsOS 4.5.
“With LindowsOS Professional,” Robertson said, “well be focusing on making work easier for business users who use multiple computers. Were seeing people who use both a desktop and laptop at work or a desktop at work and another one at home to do interchangeable work. What these workers need are office services, universally accessible storage, and follow-me technology. They also want similar work environments on each machine. We want to give them this.”
Thus in LindowsOS Professional, a user could close up a monthly report on his or her office machine, and go home and after dinner work on the same report after connecting with the office network. “This is not unlike Suns Sun Ray [a thin-client device that acts as a network computer], but the difference is that we focus on the desktop rather than on a giant server architecture,” Robertson said. “Our strategy is much more PC-centric.”
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Specifically, he said, “well use small configuration files so that each desktop will look and act the same but we wont get away from using local applications. Data will be stored remotely, and the server will act as an immediatory. If I have software at work and I need it at home, the server will automatically install it for me using our Click N Run technology.” On the server end, “it will be a very lightweight Linux server that will mostly mirror users configuration setups and installed software.”
LindowsOS Professional will also come with changes that network administrators will appreciate. “Each businesss Click N Run warehouse will have remote management, and it can be implemented in several different ways,” Robertson said. “Typically, the administrator will set up a baseline setup. Every time a users computer is turned on it will update to the current baseline.” At the same time, administrators will be able to lock down Click N Run so LindowsOS Professional machines can only be updated by central administration instead of individual users.
Robertson believes this makes it much easier for companies to install new computers. “Youll be able to set up the environment so that you can remotely set up machines. You just buy a computer, install it, and it will automatically set itself up according to the users and administrators requirements,” he said. “So, for example, you could, in theory, set up a new computer in accounting and it would automatically set itself up not only with the default user account and software but spreadsheets and accounting software at the same time.”
Kevin Carmony, president of Lindows.com, said an organization will be able to buy, manage, deploy and update all of its desktop software from any Web browser in the world. “Picture an IT manager sitting down at a Web browser, logging in, purchasing 500 copies of LindowsOS, 350 copies of StarOffice, 25 DVD players for the conference rooms, etc., and then with a push of a button deploying this software, along with hundreds of open-source titles, at will to desktops throughout the organization.”
Robertson is confident that LindowsOS Professional will be able to do such things because “Click N Run gives us more experience than anyone else in installing different environments and disparate machines.”
In addition, Robertson said, LindowsOS Professional Click N Run “can be used for both open-source and proprietary software. You can build your own warehouse. For instance, if you wanted to use Microsoft Office XP, using CodeWeavers CrossOver Office for compatibility, instead of Star Office, on LindowsOS Professional, you could install it from your businesss Click N Run warehouse.”
This, of course, can take up a lot of server and network bandwidth. LindowsOS Professional will address this by locally caching data and programs, Robertson said.
Can Lindows.com become a business software company? According to Carmony, its already there. “I think because Wal-Mart sells LindowsOS PCs, people assume its not ideal for business. For servers, Red Hat and SuSE rock. But for desktop use, be it at home, school or business, LindowsOS has strong features,” he said. “Desktop is all we do. The IT managers who use LindowsOS swear by it. Affordable, easy, stable, fast and great software management make LindowsOS ideal for businesses.”
This is not Lindows first attempt to enter the business space. Last summer, Lindows introduced its BusinessStation service based on inexpensive WebStations, essentially network computers using unmodified LindowsOS 4 with limited success.
LindowsOS Professional will be shipping in the second half of the year. No pricing has been set at this time. Besides selling directly, Lindows.com will be using its reseller channel to deliver the new operating system to business customers.
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