Linspire has announced that it is to release a free version of its Linux distribution in August. Called Freespire, it blends Linspire’s historically consumer desktop that is famous for working “out of the box” with a more open source, community-based approach.
Linspire will be releasing two versions of Freespire, one described as “99% open source” and the second completely open source. Linspire made its name by shunning the ideal of pure open source, opting rather for a system that just works â€“ whether that requires proprietary software in the mix or not. Now purists can get a taste of Linspire without compromising on their high ideals, and the rest of us get access to the large amount of proprietary software in Linspire’s repository, CNR (Click and Run). And your DVDs will play, too.
The Freespire name has some history to it, with Andrew Betts having released a distribution by the same name late last year. Linspire asked Betts to change the name, and SquiggleOS was born (and has since died too â€“ no one is currently developing SquiggleOS). Betts was asked to contribute to the official Freespire project, serving on Linspire’s Freespire Leadership Board.
Freespire isn’t exactly the same as Linspire, the company is quick to point out. It claims to have more of a community and developer focus than its namesake, and as such has more developer tools and less tutorials and applications.
Being Debian-based, users can use the apt-get tool to get new software for free over the Internet, or subscribe to CNR for $20 a year and take advantage of Linspire’s “one-click install”, and buy commercial software through the system. CNR itself is to be open sourced, Linspire announced with the launch of Freespire.
“Freespire is about choice,” Kevin Carmony, Linspire’s President and CEO, told delegates at the 4th Annual Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego yesterday. “The user should be free to decide what software they want to install on their systems, be that proprietary or open source. Linspire fully embraces and supports the open source model, but if Linux is to gain mainstream acceptance, it needs to work with iPods and DVD players, and fully support hardware, such as 3D graphic cards, Wi-Fi, sound, and printers. Until there are viable open source replacements, Freespire sets out to at least provide the option of legally and easily using certain proprietary codecs, drivers and software.”
Carmony says that Freespire has six major goals: to provide users freedom of choice by making available a “free marketplace” for all Linux software, including proprietary, open source, free and commercial products, plus easy access to this marketplace with open sourced tools such as CNR and apt-get; to offer a very easy-to-use, yet powerful, Linux distribution; to provide exceptional “fit and finish” with a professional and polished operating system; to create a Linux that can expand more broadly to the masses; to create an active community of developers and users; and to include worldwide language support.
It’s likely that one of Linspire’s unspoken goals is to capture some of the following that Ubuntu has managed to garner with its pure open source operating system. No doubt it also hopes to generate revenue through its CNR, similar to the Ximian Red Carpet model.
But the biggest benefit would be if it could attract developers to contribute to Freespire, which in turn will help Linspire’s commercial version.