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msnbc.com

Last week, we told you about the new Microtel computer that sells for $199 and runs a form of Linux called Lindows. I noted that Lindows was touting itself as an AOL computer because it links to AOL services as part of its standard software — but it seems that AOL may have other ideas.

InsertArt(1646493)AOL IS NOW REPORTEDLY claiming that they have signed no special agreement with Lindows either under the AOL or Netscape names. According to a published report, what Lindows did was to fill-in a simple usage form on the Netscape Web site. With a click on the “I Agree” button Lindows received permission to use the software — just like 70,000 other resellers have done under the distribution program.

Derick Mains, an AOL/Netscape spokesperson, told Linux Business News definitively that there’s no strategic relationship between AOL and Lindows.com and that AOL was “actually surprised by their misleading announcement” He added that AOL would “never have approved the language” that Lindows used in its press release. Mains said that Lindows would be asked to change their promotional material.

Lindows spokesperson Cheryl Schwarzman told MSNBC.com that her company does have a valid license to ship AOL/Netscape software and they are doing so under that license. She said that they have spoken with Mains and discussed their license of the software. After that conversation, she said, Lindows decided to remove an AOL logo from one picture on their Web site. Nevertheless, the company stands by last week’s announcement, she said. Schwarzman also said that there have definitely been discussions with AOL and, most importantly, that Lindows engineers have been working with AOL engineers in Virginia on integrating Netscape software into their operating system.

Despite numerous attempts to reach them, neither Mains nor anyone in the AOL Corporate Communications department returned MSNBC.com’s calls.

LINDOWS’ AOL PITCH

Lindows began touting its AOL compatibility following a legal battle with Microsoft over the name Lindows. Pushing its AOL components came at the expense of downplaying Lindows’ ability to run a few Windows programs — namely Microsoft Office 2000. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

The latest version of the Lindows OS comes with Netscape as its default Web browser, an e-mail program that runs AOL e-mail, and chat software which runs AOL Instant Messaging and allows you to join AOL chat rooms. In last week’s review I reported that the Netscape programs worked well on my two Lindows/Microtel test boxes

Lindows made no bones about positioning itself as AOL-friendly. Here is a small portion of what was stated in last week’s weekly e-mail message from Lindows President Michael Robertson:

“Today, we announced AOL’s Netscape software to be the default “Net suite” on Lindows OS 2.0. With the focus on ease-of-use and affordability, Netscape and LindowsOS combine to make for the ultimate “AOL Computer.” We surveyed every browser, e-mail, and chat option before signing a license with AOL Time Warner to include Netscape. We are solidly convinced that users will receive the best experience possible with AOL Time Warner and Netscape.”

It gets even more interesting a little further into the note. When you click on one of the photos you’re taken to http://info.lindows.com/aol where you find information and screen shots of the “Sneak Preview” of an upcoming AOL 7.0 client for Lindows. Note that Lindows is careful about not claiming any special agreement with AOL — but they do use AOL’s name liberally:

“Lindows.com fully appreciates the popularity of AOL and doesn’t want to leave the millions of satisfied AOL users out of the LindowsOS phenomena. Now, with Lindows 2.0, for the first time ever, AOL users can feel right at home while using Linux. Imagine, the power and stability of Linux with the ease-of-use of Windows and AOL!”

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