Earlier this week, two almost simultaneous release announcements from
Lindows.com and Xandros Corporation provided some entertainment during the
otherwise quiet, pre-holiday season. Lindows.com's
and Xandros Corporation's Xandros Desktop 2.0
many ways similar products with a more or less identical target market. If
you still need a Christmas present for a less technically inclined member
of your family or if you find it hard to make a decision whether to get one
or the other, then this brief feature comparison might be of help.
Installation.. Both LindowsOS and Xandros Desktop provide
easy system installation in no more than a few clicks. Both have excellent
auto-detection of most hardware, including hundreds of digital cameras and
many wireless network cards. However, the Xandros installer is a lot more
sophisticated in its advanced mode - it allows partition resizing, custom
software selection, user setup and even some advanced security configuration.
It detects an existing Xandros installation and offers an upgrade path while
preserving user data and settings. In contrast, the LindowsOS installer is
primitive even in its "advanced" mode, with the only available choice being
an option to specify a partition to which to install the operating system.
LindowsOS 0, Xandros 1.
First impressions. While developers of both products have
clearly done many usability studies to make migration from Windows as easy as
possible, LindowsOS has been more imaginative in this effort. A series of
well-presented audiovisual tutorials on various subjects is a good example
of that. On top of it, Lindows.com arguably employs more talented graphics
designers, a fact that is further enhanced by the availability of stunning
scenic desktop backgrounds, beautiful icons and a matching default desktop
theme. Although Xandros does have an advantage in providing a more
comprehensive printed manual, this round will have to go to LindowsOS for its
combination of an eye-catching desktop, innovative tutorials, and jargon-free
product guides easily palatable by even a less technically skilled audience.
LindowsOS 1, Xandros 0.
Applications. Earlier versions of LindowsOS were criticized
for having a very limited set of available applications out of the box. This
has improved in version 4.5, with previously absent OpenOffice.org, CD burner
and certain multimedia applications, such as RealPlayer, now provided without
having to subscribe to the $50-a-year Click-N-Run service. Still, Xandros
Desktop 2.0 comes on two CDs with a larger range of applications. It is also
more up-to-date with KDE 3.1.4 (as opposed to KDE 3.0.1 in LindowsOS 4.5) and
OpenOffice.org 1.1.0. It can't be a coincidence that LindowsOS 4.5 ships with
an older OpenOffice.org 1.0.3, while it uses every opportunity to promote the
non-free StarOffice 7. LindowsOS 0, Xandros 1.
Online updates. One of the strong points of LindowsOS is its
excellent Click-N-Run (CNR) service for one-click software installation and
updates. Perhaps inspired by CNR, Xandros has a similar service, called
Xandros Networks. Although not as sophisticated as its LindowsOS counterpart,
it does the job of installing applications, and it does it so for free
(installing certain applications requires free online registration).
Nevertheless, the CNR service is better designed with comprehensive package
information, options to group applications into software "aisles" for batch
installation and availability of many interesting commercial applications and
games at greatly reduced prices. We'll give this round to LindowsOS:
LindowsOS 1, Xandros 0.
Special features. Both LindowsOS and Xandros are quick to
point out many unique characteristics of their products. The latest LindowsOS
comes with a SIPphone, an Internet telephony application (see this screenshot)
which allows users to place free telephone calls anywhere in the
world. SIPphone requires a broadband connection to be effective, but our
brief tests with the application showed excellent voice quality. The catch?
The phone calls can only be made to a physical SIPphone, a product by Lindows.com's sister
company SIPphone, Inc, or another user running LindowsOS. Other new
features in LindowsOS 4.5 are remote desktop sharing and a Google-powered
web page search and translation service nicely integrated into Mozilla's
right click menu.
Xandros, on the other hand, has focused its development on the excellent
Xandros File Manager, providing many pleasant features. These include
drag-and-drop archive creation and audio ripping, seamless file sharing
across mixed networks and integrated drag-and-drop CD burning. The "switch
user" feature is a convenient tool for quick desktop switching between
several virtual desktops. The Deluxe Edition also comes with CrossOver Office
and Plugin for running certain Windows applications under Linux. This round
ends in a draw: LindowsOS 1, Xandros 1.
Price. LindowsOS costs $49.95 (download) or $59.95 (retail
package), while Xandros sells for $39.95 (Basic Edition) or $89.95 (Deluxe
Edition). The cost of LindowsOS is slightly misleading, because it costs
additional $49.95 per year to join the CNR service, without which the product
isn't nearly as much fun. However, after joining CNR, all future product
updates, including newly released ISO images are free as long as the CNR
membership is maintained. Still, the $39.95 Xandros Desktop Standard Edition
is probably a better value, especially since it includes a lot more software
than LindowsOS and it does not require regular payments. LindowsOS 0, Xandros
Conclusion. Even after comparing many aspects of the two
products, it is still hard to pick a winner. Xandros has a superior
installer, more software and is better value for the money, while LindowsOS
has more eye-candy, imaginative tutorials and the excellent Click-N-Run
service. Some users might also value certain non-technical aspects of
these products - those interested in online interaction with other users
will find LindowsOS forums more active, while others might prefer to
support a company that contributes back to the Linux community; unlike
Xandros, Lindows.com sponsors several open source projects, such as
Gaim. The innovative SIPphone application might be another good reason to
prefer LindowsOS. But some might be put off by a constant barrage of
anti-Microsoft propaganda found in Lindows.com newsletters and press
releases, with more court battles with the Redmond software giant over the
name "Lindows" coming up in the near future.
Both LindowsOS 4.5 and Xandros Desktop 2.0 are excellent distributions that
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