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Linspire Five-0 Released

Linspire released the latest version of its Linux-based desktop operating system this week.

Built on the Linux kernel 2.6.10, the alternative desktop now includes support for the OpenOffice 1.1.3 office suite and removable media use, as well as improved security and provisions for plug and play.

Version Five-0 includes a built-in VPN ; pre-configured firewall; one-step diagnostic reporting; broader video support with X.org 6.8.2; built-in BitTorrent support; new AOL dialer; enhanced firewall; and MailMinder service.

The new OS even improved its laptop support and now fits into 802.11g Wi-Fi profiles, including Intel Centrino compatibility and a new wireless control panel and access point locater. Linspire Five-0 also features AMD power management software.

For the digital home user, version Five-0 sees improvements in Linspire's Lsongs Music Manager and Lphoto Photo Manager, as well as RealPlayer 10. There is also expanded support for popular Internet, office and media file types, such as QuickTime, Windows Media, Flash, Java, Real, .doc, .xls, .ppt, .mp3, .pdf, and .mpg.

It also includes the PhoneGaim instant messaging client, which has Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) already built in to allow SIP-to-SIP communication, as well as SIP-to-LAN and LAN-to-SIP calls.

While executives with the company say version Five-0 is expected to match current conversion rates of about 500 to 1,000 consumer desktops a day, the San Diego-based company is now focused on launching an enterprise version of Linspire later this year.

"We could have released that product a while ago, but we're finding that the timing will be right for later this year," Kevin Carmony, president and COO at Linspire, told internetnews.com.

"Our product has evolved and gotten better from a consumer base, while others have waited for that enterprise tipping point to release their product. We are already working with a couple of companies that are looking to get off the Microsoft platform.

Carmony said the enterprise version of Linspire could be configured to allow a system admin to lock down a computer or banks of computers, remotely select what software to install and then manage it remotely.

Linspire CEO Michael Robertson said it took him three years and $20 million to produce the Five-0 release, a product he says can compete with Microsoft, even with Redmond's 20-year head start in the enterprise.

"We've got a couple of secret weapons," Robertson said in his e-mail announcement. "First, there are hundreds of thousands of Linux programmers assisting us in building the many parts.

"Secondly, we've got thousands of insiders, many of who have been with us since the earliest days, helping us with their money, insights and testing. They act as a massive army of helpers, and they have tested and compiled diagnostic reports from thousands of different computer configurations."

Robertson also said version Five-0 is the one users can give to friends, family or co-workers and tell them with confidence to make the switch from Microsoft.

"I think Linspire's got a credible offering in place, and they remain one of the few packages marketed directly to consumers," RedMonk senior analyst Stephen O'Grady told internetnews.com.

"The user experience in general is quite good, with a Gentoo Portage-like application database to streamline the software installation experience. That said, interest -- particularly from a consumer perspective -- is hard to win over. While people have pointed to Firefox as an example of everyday users' increased willingness to consider Microsoft alternatives, an operating system obviously requires a more substantial commitment from buyers. As such, I think it's an interesting offering, but not one ready to mirror the success of Firefox just yet."

"Linspire's mass-market approach to the Linux desktop promises to meet the needs of home, business and school users. However, the desktop and Linux desktop market is more segmented than Linspire's marketing jargon reveals," Stacey Quandt, a senior business analyst with IT research firm Robert Frances Group, said.

"Educational institutions and home users have traditionally been users of Microsoft and Apple. The benefits of switching to a Linux desktop need to include seamless file format interoperability and support for applications, such as Microsoft Word. Until then, the Linux desktop will remain a curiosity for the majority of users."

Linspire Five-0 Digital and Linspire Five-0 Digital CNR (click and run) are available for download now. The standard version retails for $49.95, while the CNR subscription edition sells for $89.95. Shrink-wrapped disks are expected to hit about 1,000 retail outlets, and versions will be pre-installed in computers sold by Wal-Mart later this month.

Linspire Five-0 is currently available in English and will be available in non-U.S. English, Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish and German by the second quarter of 2005 with other languages to follow.