Linspire: Piracy can be a positive thing

Fair pricing, not anti-copying mechanisms, are the way to address the illegal distribution of software, claims Linspire's Michael Robertson

Desktop Linux vendor Linspire said on Monday that the illegal copying of software can be useful as it might help establish a user base for a product.

Linspire chief executive Michael Robertson, speaking at the UK launch of Linspire 5 in London, said the best way to tackle piracy is to offer customers value for money.

"Businesses need to change so piracy becomes a positive thing," said Robertson. "I hope you will take Linspire software and give it to 100 people. I also hope that eventually people will pay us some money. The way you attack piracy is by pricing a product fairly."

While Microsoft enforces various anti-piracy measures such as activation keys and its Windows Genuine Advantage programme, Linspire has no plans to introduce such features into its desktop operating system, according to Robertson.

"As long as I'm in charge of the company we won't do that [introduce anti-piracy measures]," said Robertson. "I like consumers to have control over their software or hardware."

One of Linspire's challenges over the next few years is to persuade more PC vendors to pre-install Linux on their hardware. This can be difficult due to the incentives that Microsoft offers to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to get its software onto their PCs, according to Robertson.

"Microsoft has an incredible stranglehold within the OEM market," said Robertson. "They have marketing rebates that they give to companies if they are good boys and girls. It makes it hard for us to penetrate OEMs as they are worried they might lose marketing dollars from Microsoft."

The only UK-based OEM that Linspire has signed up so far is Tiny Computers, but Robertson hopes it will add more OEMs soon.

Linspire 5, which was launched in the US last month, offers various features including improved usability through a new graphical interface. A UK version of the product will be available in two weeks time from some retailers, and immediately from the Linspire Web site.

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