May 13, 2008

Linspire tightens CNR ties with Mint, Ubuntu

Author: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

Linspire, the San Diego, Calif.-based Linux distributor, is continuing to build up its CNR (Click-N-Run) software installation system with partnerships with Ubuntu parent Canonical and the Ubuntu-based Linux Mint distribution. Linspire recently announced that its beta CNR service now supports the Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron release and Linux Mint versions 4.0 and 5.

The CNR client enables users to install, uninstall, and update desktop Linux programs that are available on the CNR site. CNR's aim is to make it as easy for novice Linux users to download and install or update desktop software as it is for Windows users. In addition to open source software, CNR also offers easy access to proprietary Linux software such as Parallels Workstation virtualization software and Transgaming's Cedega, which enables people to play many Windows games on Linux. Some of these programs cost extra, but you can pay for them via CRN.

According to CEO Larry Kettler, Linspire plans on "releasing CNR clients for Debian, Fedora, and openSUSE in the near future." In the meantime, Linspire will work on finalizing CNR's software, and plans to improve its Ubuntu support, in part because Linspire's own Linux distributions, Linspire 6.0 and Freespire 2.0, have been based on Ubuntu since April 2007.

"Mint," Kettler says, "was a natural fit" for CNR since it's also Ubuntu-based. What's in it for Mint, according to Clement Lefebvre, Mint's lead developer, is that "When a commercial application is bought on CNR.com, a percentage of the sale is contributed back from Linspire to Linux Mint."

Lefebvre says, "Linspire could have added support for Linux Mint without even telling us about it, and even this would have been good news. It's yet another choice available to our users and another step into making Linux easier to use. Not only did they do this but they came to us first, they made the effort to understand our specificities, they proposed to share the income generated on their own portal, and they're now even helping us adding support for CNR into our own client."

Linspire is doing this, Lefebvre explains, by "maintaining both [the] CNR.com and the CNR client for Linux Mint 4.0 and Linux Mint 5, and we're making the client available in our repositories. Linspire is also helping us understand the CNR protocol and they're working on documenting their own API. We're interested in this because we would like to add support for CNR.com directly into the mintInstall client, which already supports .mint, .deb, and APT."

Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical, explains Canonical's partnership with Linspire as being "the same relationship with Linspire that we have always had. They continue to support Ubuntu through CNR and continue to base Freespire on Ubuntu. CNR is a valuable part of the Ubuntu ecosystem and lots of people get software for Ubuntu through that service."

Unlike Mint, however, Ubuntu is not working directly with Linspire on CNR. "The support is not joint in the sense of something we have worked on together, nor do we have any special privileges over any other distro they support through CNR," Carr says.

For Linspire, all this means that the company is continuing to transition from being a Linux distributor to being a Linux software support company. After a difficult shift in executive leadership last year, Kettler says the company is doing better, and that CNR, with its growing multi-Linux distribution support, is largely responsible for this improvement.

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