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Hooking kids on Lindows

It's an old strategy, but a good one: Get the young folks using your technology when they're in school, and they just might get hooked for a lifetime.

Open-source software distributor Lindows.com has started pursuing its version of this strategy by reaching out to schools with an unlimited licensing offer. The San Diego, Calif.-based software provider last week outlined a plan to let educational institutions from elementary schools to universities install as many copies of the company's OS in as many campus PCs as they want for a flat fee of $500.

LindowsOS -- or just Lindows -- uses the open-source Linux operating system, the WINE Windows-to-Unix library, and proprietary software to provide a Linux desktop environment that also runs certain Windows programs. Lindows includes the Click-N-Run installation feature that enables both Linux and Windows applications to be downloaded and installed from the Lindows.com Web site with one click of the mouse.

The founder and former CEO of MP3.com, Michael Robertson, conceived Lindows as a means of running Windows software on top of Linux. The company was established in 2001, and until recently, Lindows was available only on inexpensive PCs sold by retailers like Wal-Mart and Fry's Electronics. The company now sells its operating system as a standalone product, starting at $119.

''There has been great demand from schools for an easy-to-use, affordable Linux solution,'' Robertson said in a statement. ''Many schools get computers donated to them, but then can't afford to equip them with a modern operating system and software -- until now.''

The educational market is sought after piece of the PC-market pie. Market research firm IDC expects the educational market to grow to $9.5 billion annually by 2005. Since the days when Apple Computer ruled the schools, vendors have offered software and hardware at reduced prices to educational institutions in hopes of winning loyal users.

Lindows.com found itself in the public eye last year when Microsoft sued the company for trademark infringement over the similarity between the Lindows and Windows names.

Interestingly, Lindows.com does not currently claim to be much of a Windows alternative, at least when it comes to running Windows-based programs. To the question, ''What Microsoft Windows applications will Lindows run?'' posted on the company's Web site FAQ page, Robertson answers, ''Currently, Lindows users can Click-N-Run the Microsoft Windows Compatibility Program that allows Lindows to somewhat run a limited number of MS Windows-compatible software programs.'' And, the site further states, ''... Lindows will not run Microsoft Windows applications at a level of quality we're satisfied with.''

Any school with a yen to go open source can visit the Lindows Web site for educators and sign up for the new licensing program, the company said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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