Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony announced at the Desktop Linux Summit in San Diego Monday that his company would be releasing a free variant of its Linux operating system under the brand "Freespire." The distribution will come in two flavors, one with bundled proprietary software and one entirely open source.
Freespire will be community driven and is intended to broaden the reach of Linux on the desktop. While the open source operating system has gained a strong foothold in the server market, it continues to struggle to gain acceptance among consumers. Part of the problem is a lack of drivers and compatible software.
To remedy these issues, Freespire will offer out-of-box support for MP3 and DVD playback, Windows Media, QuickTime, Java, Flash, Real, ATI drivers, nVidia drivers, Adobe Acrobat Reader, third-party fonts, and other proprietary software. Linspire notes that other Linux distributions do not offer these tools in their core releases.
Linspire touts the fact that it has licensed such software for end users as a primary differentiator with its $50 Linspire OS. While Freespire will include many of the same features, the company notes the free iteration does not offer the same ease of use or premium support.
Freespire first cropped up last September, but as a project created by developer Andrew Betts. Betts had taken the Linspire operating system and removed the proprietary components as a side project. . After discussions with representatives from Linspire, Betts agreed to change the name of his package and hand over the name.
"The very things that were taken out of Linspire for Andrew's project are in fact some of the very things that make Linspire, well...Linspire," the company said at the time.
Linspire has opted to continue Betts' effort, but provide the option of non-open source software as well.
"The user should be free to decide what software they want to install on their systems, be that proprietary or open source," said Carmony. "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."
The first beta release of Freespire will ship in August. Linspire additionally plans to open source its CNR (click and run) technology, a one-click download and install software management system. While most software for Freespire will be free via CNR, certain tools and codecs can be purchased using the technology.