Linspire launches free Linux distribution

The desktop Linux vendor hopes its Freespire distribution will help broaden its appeal

Linux vendor Linspire has launched a free distribution of its Linux desktop OS called Freespire 1.0, based on the Debian Linux software distribution.

Freespire is similar to the firm's commercial Linspire OS, except that it's free and allows any company or individual to make modifications to the source code. The company is hoping to attract open source and commercial Linux vendors who can add new features, applications and utilities to the core OS.

The Freespire community project was first announced at the Desktop Linux Summit in April.

"Freespire provides a free marketplace for any and all Linux software, including proprietary, open source, free and commercial products," said Linspire's chief executive, Kevin Carmony. "All vendors are free to participate and offer their wares, and buyers are free to choose from the different wares without limitations or restrictions on their choice."

Freespire also includes proprietary third-party software in situations where there are not yet viable open source alternatives.

By including third-party proprietary drivers, codecs and applications software, Freespire is "able to provide better out-of-the-box hardware, file type and multimedia support, such as mp3, Windows Media, Real, QuickTime, Java, Flash, ATI, Nvidia, fonts, Wi-Fi, and modems", the company said in a statement.

Like Linspire, Freespire will include the "click-and-run" software-management tool, which lets users download drivers, codecs and software with one mouse-click.

Linspire also announced Freespire OSS Edition, a version of Freespire that does not include any proprietary software at all. Aimed at developers, it allows applications to be built without any of the third-party licensed components included in the core OS.

In October, Linspire claimed to have passed the million-user mark, although this was disputed by some observers.

The company started in controversial circumstances. In July 2004, Linspire changed its name from Lindows, after a long court battle with Microsoft who eventually agreed to pay $20m for the rights to the name.

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