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Lindows mobilizes Centrino support

Desktop Linux software maker Lindows.com releases a version of its operating system that supports the Intel chip for wireless notebooks.

Desktop Linux software maker Lindows.com released on Thursday a version of its operating system that features support for Intel's Centrino chips for wireless notebooks.

The software package arrives the day after Intel promised to begin offering Linux versions of the software necessary to use its chips at about the same time it releases comparable Windows support.

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That announcement, which signified an about-face in Intel's Linux policy, was made at least partially in response to complaints from the open-source community that the chipmaker had yet to debut software or specifications allowing Linux users to tap into Centrino, which has been on the market for almost a year. Prior to Intel's change of heart, Linux users could use the wireless technology only by wrapping a Linux interface around a Windows software module.

Lindows added the Centrino support to its LindowsOS Laptop Edition software and said it expects laptop computers preloaded with the operating system to reach the market in about a month. Computer makers already shipping notebooks with Lindows software include Microtel and Taiwan-based Elitegroup Computer Systems. Among the benefits of the release, the software maker predicts, will be lower-priced mobile computers featuring Centrino chips.

Initial Centrino support in Lindows will be based on existing Linux adaptations of Windows drivers, Lindows CEO Michael Robertson said. "It works great," he said. "It's invisible to the consumer."

Native Linux support will come as Intel follows through on its new commitments, Robertson said. "We've been talking to Intel for a long time," he said. "They want to do a better job of supporting Linux."

Intel said Wednesday that it expected initial Centrino support to arrive via the release of a proprietary driver. Thus far, the company has been hesitant to ship an open-source driver, based on its concerns that showing Centrino's underlying programming instructions might reveal previously unavailable information about the wireless networking technology.

Linux is currently found in only a fraction of laptop and desktop computers, compared with Microsoft's Windows, but the open-source software has established a presence among an influential crowd of users, including students and programmers.

CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland and David Becker contributed to this report.