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Linspire, Canonical, Freespire, Ubuntu join forces


Canonical Ltd., the sponsor of Ubuntu, and Linspire Inc., the developer of Linspire and Freespire, on February 8 announced a technology partnership to integrate with each other’s Linux distributions. Linspire/Freespire will be based on Ubuntu, rather than Debian, and Ubuntu will integrate with Linspire’s CNR package installer/updater.

Starting with Ubuntu’s 7.04 release in April, Ubuntu users will gain access to Linspire’s newly opened CNR (Click and Run) e-commerce and software delivery system. For Linspire, that will mean moving from Debian to Ubuntu as the base for its Linspire and Freespire desktop operating systems.

Today’s announcement confirmed that Ubuntu will be the first distribution to be supported by the new wiki-powered CNR.

With the integration of CNR into Ubuntu’s upcoming 7.04 release, Ubuntu users will be able to use the CNR client to download and install of commercial programs and proprietary media drivers and CODECs with one click of the mouse. In the future, Canonical plans to integrate aspects of the CNR technology so the purchase of commercial software is straightforward for desktop users.

Today, to add proprietary programs to Ubuntu, users must use third-party script programs like Automatix2. As a result of the partnership with Linspire, Canonical will be able to “provide commercial software products and services such as legally licensed DVD and media players to users who want them,” according to Steve George, Canonical’s director of support and services.

Ubuntu has been moving toward supporting proprietary software and drivers since last November. At that time, the distribution’s developers decided that to give users reasonable performance from their graphics cards, wireless cards, and modems, they would need to incorporate proprietary driver support into the distribution.

Ubuntu users will continue to have the same repository and installation options as before. CNR will simply add a range of commercial consumer applications, multimedia support, and games to their options.

“Over the past few years, Linspire has refined their e-commerce and software delivery technology with their CNR service,” said Ubuntu founder and Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth. “For some time, we’ve been planning enhancements to Ubuntu’s commercial software management, and it was only natural to take advantage of Linspire’s new, open CNR technology rather than duplicating that work.”

For Linspire users, the deal will mean that they will benefit from Ubuntu’s fast moving development cycles and focus on usability. In the past, Linspire has been based on Debian.

Efforts, which were supported by Linspire, to standardize some aspects of Debian under the DCC Alliance, in the past met with resistance from the Debian community. In addition, Debian releases have continued to lag behind schedule. The next release, Etch, was due in early December, but a final release candidate has yet to see the light of day.

The Freespire community will start seeing early releases of Freespire 2.0 based on Ubuntu 7.04, aka Feisty Fawn, in the first quarter of 2007, with the final release expected in the second quarter, following April’s official release of Ubuntu 7.04. The Feisty Fawn distribution is currently at an alpha 3 release level.

At the same time, Linspire will continue combining proprietary drivers, codecs, and
applications with open-source software by default in Linspire and Freespire. This controversial approach gives users out-of-the-box support for a broader range of software, hardware, and multimedia file types than the Debian or Ubuntu Linuxes baseline distributions do alone.

Linspire will not just become a value-add of Ubuntu, though. It will continue adding other unique features that are important to its users and that make the Linspire distribution easy-to-use for end users, and a turn-key solution for PC system builders.

“Ubuntu is the most successful community-based Linux project to date,” Linspire CEO Kevin Carmony said in a statement. “They have done a fantastic job with the development community and creating tools for utilizing their technology. It made a tremendous amount of sense to partner with Canonical and begin basing our desktop Linux offerings on Ubuntu.”

“This technology partnership goes a long way in advancing and unifying the Linux desktop,” continued Carmony. “Linux faces many challenges as it competes in a world historically dominated by Microsoft Windows, so there is plenty of work to go around and we’re pleased to be able to offer differentiation and choice, while reducing fragmentation.”

“The very nature of Free Software development is based on sharing and collaboration,” noted Shuttleworth. “The less time, energy and resources Canonical and Linspire spend duplicating efforts, the more time we’ll all have for unique improvements and innovation.”

Shuttleworth added, “We’re pleased to see another key Linux distribution incorporating our work with Ubuntu.” The most well-known Ubuntu-based distribution is MEPIS’s SimplyMEPIS. Other distributions based on Ubuntu include Mint and Pioneer Linux.

The new CNR and Ubuntu are both scheduled to make their first appearances Apr. 19, 2007. For additional information see the Linspire/Ubuntu partnership FAQ.

A version of this story first appeared in DesktopLinux.

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