Lindows Changes OS Name To Linspire

Embattled Lindows.com, which has been wrestling in the courts for two years with Microsoft over trademark issues, on Wednesday changed the name of its Linux desktop operating system from LindowsOS

April 15, 2004

4 Min Read
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Embattled Lindows.com, which has been wrestling in the courts for two years with Microsoft over trademark issues, on Wednesday changed the name of its Linux desktop operating system from LindowsOS to Linspire.

"Maybe [the new name] is playing off of 'inspire,'" theorized Dan Kusnetzky, vice president of IDC's systems software team. "Or maybe they're playing off 'perspire' or even 'expire.' I doubt it's 'expire' though."

In fact, the new name comes by combining "Linux" with "spire," as in "pinnacle," said Lindows in a statement on its Web site. The company's notched "L," which is used in its logo and branded onto boxed versions of its products, will also be retained, the San Diego company said.

"The name change is interesting," added Kusnetzky. "I suspect it's a statement [by Lindows] that they don't have the time or money to compete with Microsoft across the world over their name."

That's exactly what Lindows said. The name change was made to end Microsoft's international legal attacks, Lindows acknowledged. Microsoft has sued Lindows in several countries, including the U.S., claiming that the company's products are trading off its Windows name.In addition to the change in its products' names, Lindows Wednesday altered the URL of its main Web site from lindows.com to linspire.com. As of mid-morning Wednesday, the linspire.com site was up and running, although it included numerous mentions of LindowsOS. And while the lindows.com URL remains live, it will soon redirect users to linspire.com.

Even though Lindows has stymied Microsoft's legal efforts in the U.S., and in countries such as France and Sweden, the name change was still necessary to get Microsoft off its back, said Lindows' CEO Michael Robertson.

"We're hoping that this puts a halt on the international lawsuits," said Robertson in a statement. "A Microsoft spokesperson has publicly stated that 'We're only asking that Lindows change their name' which is what we have done."

Last week, Lindows announced it would seek a new name, but only for its international business. The switch Wednesday, however, went beyond that, for it affects the Web site available to U.S. customers and products sold domestically.

Lindows called for name suggestions from its users, and collected hundreds in the weeks preceding today's announcement. Today's debut of Linspire, however, was greeted by yawns from some of the operating system's users posting on the Lindows message forum."Sure not my choice of names," said one poster. "It doesn't have much 'catchiness" to it."

Others were kinder. One post to the forum, for instance, read, "I think Linspire is much more original, interesting, and inspiring than the name Lindows. Now people won't ask me if it's a rebranded version of Windows or Windows for Losers!"

Lindows isn't completely throwing caving in to Microsoft, however, and will continue the defense of its name in U.S. courts. The lawsuit is currently on hold as Microsoft awaits word on its appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We're not giving up on the name," said Kira Lee, a spokeswoman for Lindows. "We're just admitting the reality. When a software giant like Microsoft has hundreds of in-house lawyers, we still need to be able to do business."

Lindows will continue to use its name in the U.S. in certain instances, Lee said, and as its corporate moniker. "There's no reason for us to change our corporate name. And we'll be referring to Lindows from time to time in the U.S." The latter, she said, would be phased out as the company gradually re-brands itself and its products to Linspire.By the end of next week, she said, the company's entire software line will be renamed with Linspire, including Linspire Laptop Edition, Linspire Developer Edition, and its Spanish-language Linspire desktop OS.

Lee rejected the idea that Lindows was holding onto its name, at least in part, in order to squeeze a possible future settlement out of Microsoft if the lawsuit goes its way.

"That's not our aim here," she said.

And the name change could help Lindows more than hurt it, said one analyst.

"The more Microsoft focused on Lindows' name, the more [Lindows] seemed worthy of attention," said Kusnetzky. "Changing the name again may well give them another opportunity for attention."A name is just a tool," concluded Kusnetzky. "With the tool Lindows was using, it got a certain amount of awareness and attention. But what's more important going forward is how that tool is utilized, how they're going to market themselves from here.

"With the proper marketing, it's possible to make any name stick."

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