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Thread: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

  1. #1
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    Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    There was a thread here about OOoFF. I figured since many had read this thread, it was only fair that I get a chance to respond in a top-level post.

    OOoFF was a VERY O L D product that was created specifically for RETAIL distribution. Not sure why this old page was still floating around. Thanks for pointing it out so we could take it down and that page now just redirects to OO.org

    The history, for those who care...

    Retails channels are not interested in carrying "free" software. Best Buy, COMPusa, Fry's, Micro Center, Wal-Mart, etc. are BUSINESSES and they stay in business by SELLING software. There is no reason at all for any of these businesses to promote or support open source software such as Firefox or OpenOffice. Some of these retailers WANTED to promote and distribute Firefox and OpenOffice.org, but it needed to: 1) come in a box, 2) have support included, and 3) have a list price so they could sell it and make money (they have rent, utilities, payroll, etc. to pay, and that's how they stay in business).

    Linspire responded to this demand, thinking having these products available in retail stores was a GOOD thing for open source. We put this package together and many retailers carried it and it even sold well. However, Linspire also got pounded on by "the community" for trying to "sell" open source software. (All profits went directly to open source projects.) So, even though OOoFF did quite well, and millions of retail shoppers could be exposed to Firefox and OpenOffice.org, we dropped the product. We never made any profit on it. By the time we paid for packaging and distribution costs, and with the low margins in retail software, this was just a project to help expose more people to Firefox and OpenOffice. Millions of people still purchase software through retail channels, and Microsoft loves having all that shelf space to themselves.

    Score:
    - Microsoft: 1
    - Open Source Software on Retail Store Shelves: 0

    The interesting discussion I think that you can have in this thread, is this: "Should open source software only be available as a free download, or should people be exposed to it via the normal, retail distribution channels?"

    Now, me, personally? I'm a big fan of choice. For example, some people like to change the oil in their car, and find it ridiculous that anyone would pay to have that done. I, on the other hand, am GLAD that Jiffy Lube and others exist to take care of this tedious task for me. Even though Linspire won't get in that business again (who needs the aggravation? =), it's a shame someone else doesn't. I think it's a shame that when people go shopping at all the retail outlets for software they don't find OpenOffice, Firefox, GIMP, Nvu, etc. Many would be HAPPY to pay a few bucks to have a box, manual, support, and have it distributed via retailers. Choice, I like it.

    Kevin Carmony
    President & CEO, Linspire, Inc.
    Last edited by Kevin Carmony; March 2nd, 2006 at 03:26 AM.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Dude, I am so posting what I said to your post on the other thread in this one =O

    now just redirects to OO.org
    Good move.

    Retails channels are not interested in carrying "free" software. Best Buy, COMPusa, Fry's, Micro Center, Wal-Mart, etc. are BUSINESSES and they stay in business by SELLING software.
    Good point, however I feel there are better ways to promote open source software.

    However, Linspire also got pounded on by "the community" for trying to "sell" open source software.
    I understand it a bit better now after your post, but I still cant say I aggree with it.

    It might also put some people off. They hear about linux and open source software being so absolutly free, yet an open source product is/was selling in stores.

    You were just lucky they named it Openoffice.org instead of something like Freeoffice.org Cant say someone would like to buy something with the word free in the name.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Wow! Are you really the CEO of Linspire? Hello! I'm your greatest fan.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Quote Originally Posted by xequence
    Good point, however I feel there are better ways to promote open source software.
    That's because you're probably more technical than most. I mean, you and I are hanging out in the Ubuntu forums! Keep in mind that 95% of the world doesn't know what open source software even is yet. Many people still buy their software in retail stores, and they don't see GIMP, Nvu, OO, etc. So, they end up still paying money, but usually paying a lot more and for closed-source, proprietary software. How is THAT good for OS? I would LOVE to see OpenOffice sitting on the retail store shelves for $19.95, right next to MS Office selling for hundreds more.

    If open source software is to always mean = no support, no manuals, no boxes, no retail distribution, then it will always remain at a disadvantage. Many people WANT support, manuals, etc., and those things cost $$$$$.


    Quote Originally Posted by xequence
    It might also put some people off. They hear about linux and open source software being so absolutly free, yet an open source product is/was selling in stores.
    And that's why we dropped it. I personally get worn out trying to defend Linspire for trying to take open source software to the masses with "the community" always complaining to us about doing that. In this case it was just easier to drop it.

    Here's a question for everyone...

    If the Mozilla foundation decided to release Firefox through these retail channels, and charged $20 (to cover box, manual, distribution, and leave margin for retailers), would you crucify them? Or would you applaud them for seeing Firefox hitting the mainstream channels? Having it there for free is obviously NOT an option, because there are hard costs and these retailers need margin.

    Kevin
    Last edited by Kevin Carmony; March 2nd, 2006 at 02:09 AM.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Hey Kevin.
    We used to use Linspire on our desktop computers at TechSonic Network. I'm sorry to say we did make a change to Ubuntu. Nothing personal though, we just found Ubuntu best for our needs.


    EDIT:

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Carmony

    If the Mozilla foundation decided to release Firefox through these retail channels, and charged $20 (to cover box, manual, distribution, and leave margin for retailers), would you crucify them? Or would you applaud them for seeing Firefox hitting the mainstream channels? Having it there for free is obviously NOT an option, because there are hard costs and these retailers need margin.

    Kevin

    I would applaud them.
    Last edited by FoxLogic; March 2nd, 2006 at 02:14 AM.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Kevin, thanks for taking the time out to post on the Ubuntu Forums.

    I understand completely about real-life retailers like Best Buy needing something in a box that costs money. That makes perfect sense.

    Why, however, would that mean the website about the product wouldn't make it plainly visible that the same product is available as a free download? The way the page used to look (before re-directing to OpenOffice) gave the impression (to someone who didn't know any better) that the price offered was a major discount and that was more or less the only way to obtain the software.

    If your reasoning holds, the page would have said something like, "Firefox and OpenOffice are wonderful pieces of open source software. Download them freely at these websites. You can also obtain packaged versions of these programs at Best Buy and other retailers for $X."

    No one will mourn the loss of OOoFF. I do believe your intentions were noble, even if your reasoning seems a little shady.

    That said, I have the utmost respect for Linspire, and I think it and CNR get a little too much slamming in the Linux community.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    I agree with aysiu. The page made no mention of the fact that the products could be obtained for free and that they were indeed free software. I felt like it needed to be explained to consumers, who you admit are probably not aware of the free software movement, that they were paying for the packaging, manuals, support, and convenience.

    Having said that, I think it was a good idea to provide more exposure for the products and make people aware of alternatives by having them available in retail stores. It just needed a little more information imo.

    Also, were the profits (or some part of them) to be distributed back in some way to the firefox and OOo projects, or free software in some way?
    Last edited by jrib; March 2nd, 2006 at 02:18 AM.

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Quote Originally Posted by aysiu
    Why, however, would that mean the website about the product wouldn't make it plainly visible that the same product is available as a free download?
    Yes, the retailers would love that. "Come to our store, check out the product, then when you go to the web page to learn more, find the link for the free download."

    Again, this comes down to the realities of retailing. Yea, it would be really cool if all the employees at these places worked for free, then the owners of the stores wouldn't have to be smart business people and could just dedicate all their energies to promoting open source software. That's just not their business.

    That would be like going to the web page for Evian, and they have a link to step-by-step instructions how you can bottle your own water for free. Water IS free, but if you want it in a bottle, distributed to you, and supported if there is a problem, it will cost.

    Quote Originally Posted by aysiu
    No one will mourn the loss of OOoFF. I do believe your intentions were noble, even if your reasoning seems a little shady.
    No one? We still get calls from retailers wanting to sell it. THEY will miss it. But, I'll tell you who will NOT mourn its loss...Microsoft. They are very happy to have all that shelf space back and no one in those stores knowing they can get an entire office suite for a few bucks.

    Quote Originally Posted by aysiu
    That said, I have the utmost respect for Linspire, and I think it and CNR get a little too much slamming in the Linux community.
    Thank you.

    Kevin

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    Quote Originally Posted by _jason
    Also, were the profits (or some part of them) to be distributed back in some way to the firefox and OOo projects, or free software in some way?
    Yes, every penny. Thanks for reminding me to point that out. Every cent (and the margins were very low, so it wasn't much), went to supporting these and other open source projects.

    http://linspire.com/opensource

    Kevin

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    Re: Linspire CEO Explains OOoFF

    This is my take personally.

    And not wholly on topic either. BUt OpenSource is in a catch22 situation in what you propose(d) as to having it on shelves. Opensource will thrive when it's pre-installed on people's computers upon purchase.

    The MS lockin and various anti-trust special deals with hardware manufacteurs make this incredibly difficult. Seeing that Dell was including FF on some PCs was a big blow IMO.

    This is the model that MS used to rise to stardom. And it worked. and it will still work.

    I do agree though that people do want support. How to supply that or notify the masses about that would be a task and a half.

    From working in a CompUSA for a while through college though, i can tell you flat out right now.. most customer's will not care about the product that cost considerably less that sits on the same shelf as MS Office. The drastic price difference makes them extremely skeptical. And on top of that if they find out they could get it for free.. there would be more than a OSS community backlash.

    Part of this though is the MS monoculture problem. People don't even think in terms of word processor, spreadsheet, presentation. They think Word, Excel, Powerpoint.


    That's just my .02 cents.
    Last edited by DigitalDuality; March 2nd, 2006 at 02:22 AM.

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