August 2, 2006

Linspire founder Robertson seeks publicity from Tour de France winner

Author: Tina Gasperson

Linspire founder and entrepreneur extraordinaire Michael Robertson is at it again. No stranger to PR stunts, he's scooped out a big one this time. In the latest installment of his blog Michael's Minute, Robertson begs embattled Tour de France winner Floyd Landis to prove he's not a "cheater" by taking a polygraph test stating he did not take banned medication leading up to and during the Tour. To sweeten the pot, Robertson offers to pay Landis $100,000.

This latest in a long string of creative bids for attention from Robertson is geared to gain him some spillover publicity for his current interests, including Linspire (formerly known as Lindows), Mp3Tunes, and SIPphone. The founder of MP3.com (arguably Robertson's most successful project, now owned by CNET) is well-known for his bold PR style, including an open letter to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (do you think he read it?) in which Robertson extolled the benefits of per-user licensing versus Microsoft's per-machine scheme, as well as the infamous self-graded Lindows report card, which proclaimed that only 80% of "insiders" who paid $99 for the privilege of installing a beta version of Lindows could get it to work.

This time he's tooting his horn outside the realm of IT, focusing on a sport he claims to have some interest in. Robertson says he's watched "every second" of Tour coverage, was a cyclist in his college days, and apparently actually even won a race once. In the letter, he tells Landis he knows "how tough it is to literally carry water and sacrifice your own body and chance for victory for your leader." Robertson writes that he was dressed in cycling garb as he watched Landis pull ahead of the pack late in the race -- but that was because the Lindows legend was planning to ride his bike to work that morning.

All those yummy keywords related to the Tour de France and Landis should pull even more traffic and links to Robertson's blog, where the vast majority of posts are advertisements for his products. Though a positive response from Landis would be a big peacock feather in the entrepreneur's cap, no one expects that to happen, most assuredly not even Robertson. But even if his latest bid for glory is ignored, Robertson certainly knows how to make a splash.

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