Linspire makes download service free

Annual access to Linux seller's software library came down from $20-to-$50 range to improve the product's popularity.

Linux seller Linspire has removed the $20 to $50 annual fees it charged for access to its "Click 'N' Run" library of software downloads, a bid to enhance the popularity of its product.

"CNR really makes using desktop Linux easy, and we want everyone to have access to this quality service," Chief Executive Kevin Carmony said in a statement. The move was financially feasible for the company because it's making enough revenue from premium products such as software to play DVDs, CodeWeavers' CrossoverOffice software to run Microsoft Windows and Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, a commercial variant of, the company said.

The library is a key feature of the company's $60 Linspire and free Freespire Linux products. The company argues that its approach makes it easy to install new software.

Linux is chiefly used on servers, where administrators have more technical acumen, the related Unix operating system is well established, and Microsoft faces strong competition. That's where Linux leader Red Hat has made its mark and No. 2 Novell is trying to make gains. But Linspire, along with Xandros, Mandriva, Canonical, Novell and others, is trying to make a business out of Linux on desktop computers as well.

So far Linspire hasn't made a profit, but the company is "very close," said Larry Kettler, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. "We lost around $10 million per year in previous years, and now we're just about at break-even."

The San Diego-based company hit a maximum of about 85 employees, but has leveled off hiring until becoming profitable, he said.

According to the download site--which was responding slowly Wednesday due to heavy traffic--the most popular downloads are Adobe Reader, the Firefox Web browser, Lassist e-mail reminder software and the Frozen Bubble game.

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