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I spent the first part of this week in China, taking a closer look at computing in far east Asia. While I was in China, Lindows filed papers asking the U.S. court to block Microsoft's "sue 'em everywhere" tactics. We are hopeful that Judge Coughenour will not allow Microsoft to avoid trial in the US by delaying here, while misleading foreign courts into granting unnecessary injunctions. The court has granted a live hearing to hear our anti-suit motion. It will happen in open court on Wednesday, March 24th at 9:30 a.m. in Seattle.


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In countries that I visit, I often take a running tour to get a first-hand assessment of a new place. From my Chinese hotel, I put on my Choice PC t-shirt and embarked on a jog through a tiny slice of communist China. My unscientific analysis is that there is little choice in China in PCs, or in other elements of their society (but that's another discussion). Every imaginable software title is available for just a couple of dollars. In the US and other modern countries, computer manufacturers typically pay about $100 to Microsoft for XP and $200 or so for Microsoft Office, which provides a great opportunity for Linux companies to offer quality software at a small fraction of Microsoft prices. In China though, Microsoft software (and just about every other title) is freely copied. This makes the effective cost of XP, 2000 or 98 zero - leaving little cost advantage for Linux products. Despite popular rumors, I saw no indications of meaningful desktop Linux adoption in China. It seems that choice is slow to arrive in this Asian giant.

Last week Lindows announced that we are temporarily halting choice in the Netherlands. Even though it's only temporary, it's disheartening to have to suspend choice anywhere that there's demand for alternatives to the monopoly's products. While sales are small, many in the Dutch computer industry have expressed to me a hunger for a supported alternative, which they believe LindowsOS can be. In fact, PC Magazine in the Netherlands even bundled a LindowsLive! CD with their latest issue and included a cover story. In spite of our efforts to date, Microsoft has made it difficult to operate in a small number of countries under the name Lindows.

We're looking for a strategy which would allow us to continue to operate in impacted countries. This may mean that Lindows needs a temporary alternative name in isolated locations. It's tremendously disruptive to a business to change a name or add an alias, but it may be the only way in the short-term that we can operate in certain places. I want to stress that we have no intention of changing our corporate name, that will certainly remain Lindows. We're only looking for suggestions for this alternate name to be used selectively, where appropriate. As costly and troublesome as it may be to operate under a different moniker, we do have a strong commitment to battle for choice around the world - especially in places where Microsoft doesn't want choice to take root.

It's not easy finding a new name, so we're turning to our existing audience to provide us with suggestions. Many helpful users have already submitted unsolicited candidates. I'd like to formally request that you send us your best ideas via email to temporaryName@lindows.com, and discuss names on our guest forums. We'll be investigating the feasibility of utilizing an alternate name to ensure that vendors can do global distribution deals and that we're doing everything we can to bring choice everywhere there is demand. In the near future, we will share some of the interesting candidates with you and any decision we make in this area.

I left China somewhat disappointed because they are far from having real choice in the software business. In a country where factory workers make $2 per day, prices for Western-authored software are out of reach. This forces their citizens into a culture of piracy, since they cannot practically afford software through legal channels. I saw a commercial on Chinese TV discouraging software piracy, but it will take more than media messaging to change China. Either Chinese citizens need to see massive salary increases (which cannot feasibly happen), or software needs to cost 1/20th or less of current rates. The co-operative development of Linux is the only way to provide quality software at a small fraction of the price of traditional proprietary programs. Linux is the solution for China to move to a respectful intellectual property stance, and still ensure their people the benefits of technology, but it will take time.

On the last day of my journey, I saw the door to Linux crack open and a glimmer of light shine through. I took a 40 minute ferry from mainland China to Hong Kong to catch an airplane bound for Los Angeles. I ducked into the airport bookstore for some reading material for the 13 hour flight. On the shelf I found the latest issue of LinuxUser & Developer magazine. Shrink-wrapped to the front was a DVD case containing the "The World's favourite desktop Linux OS - LindowsOS 4.5". I bought the last copy.

-- Michael

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