Equal Opportunity Offender (4/21/04)

We readily admit it: we used to root for the desktop Linux guys over at Lindows because they were embroiled in a fierce legal battle with Microsoft over the use of their company name. For a while it even looked remotely possible that Microsoft could lose its whole "Windows" trademark if a court agreed that "window" was a generic term for those rectangular thingies on computer screens before Microsoft ever shipped Windows 1.0. (It was.) So, yeah, we had a soft spot in our hearts for the Lindows folks-- not so much in a "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" sort of deal, but more along the lines of "anyone who causes Microsoft a little aggravation probably deserves an extra karmic jellybean when the holidays roll around."

But Lindows (now apparently "Linspire" because of the Microsoft suit) forfeited its extra jellybean in a big way: since it doesn't look like its going to prevail over Microsoft in court, evidently the company has since decided that maybe it should take on Apple's lawyers instead. Faithful viewer Lord Savage was first to inform us that Linspire is preparing to ship a couple of new applications to its customers: Lsongs and Lphoto. And while we certainly don't begrudge the company its right to ship digital music and photo apps, if you can bear to take a glance or two at screenshots of the software in action, we think you'll notice a similarity that extends far beyond the product names.

Seriously, take a look at Lsongs and tell us that's not hauntingly familiar. The menus, from left to right, are "File," "Edit," "Controls," Visualizer," and "Advanced." Look at the panes and their layout: a "Source" column on the left, "Selected Song" under that (complete with album art), "Artist" and "Album" columns side-by-side in a browse mode apparently triggered by clicking an eye in a circle, check boxes in front of each song with "Song Name," "Time," "Artist," and "Albums" columns in that order, etc. etc. etc. In fact, move the row of player controls/readout/search box/browse button (yes, they're even in that order) from the bottom to the top, and you have the exact same interface as iTunes-- only, you know, really freakin' ugly.

No, honestly-- ugly. Like, Windows 3.1-era ugly with a few completely out-of-place Aquaesque widgets stapled on just to rob the pervasive hideousness of what might have been at least a mildly redeeming sense of consistency. We can't say whether Apple has grounds for a look-and-feel lawsuit based on the outright theft of its functional interface, but if a suit is filed, Linspire will have a decent defense in the form of "our interface can't possibly be a copy of Apple's, because whereas Apple's is pleasing to the eye, ours could blind a stoat at fifty yards." Regardless, even if Linspire doesn't get sued for swiping Apple's interface, it should at least be poked in the eye for perverting it into something straight out of Jonathan Ive's cold-sweat night terrors.

Needless to say, the Lphoto interface is as much of a rip-off of iPhoto's as Lsongs's is a dupe of iTunes's. We'll be interested to see whether Apple takes any legal action against Linspire, or if instead a wild-eyed Jon Ive just visits the Linspire offices with an assortment of automatic weapons to dish out a little Instant Karma. Either way's fine with us, we suppose, although if we had a choice, we'd probably opt for the latter; we've had a lot more courtroom drama on the show than a soft-spoken British design guru running amuck with an AK-47 and a chip on his shoulder the size of a Dodge Stratus. But that's just us.

SceneLink (4645)
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The above scene was taken from the 4/21/04 episode:

April 21, 2004: Apple makes noises hinting that PowerBooks may not go G5 for over a year yet. Meanwhile, Linspire (formerly Lindows) copies everything about iTunes and iPhoto except for their good looks, and now that the Pepsi-iTunes promo is over, it's time to line up for a free song from Ben & Jerry's...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4644: What's One More Year? (4/21/04)   Remember, kiddies, the important thing to remember amid all this PowerBook G5 hubbub is not to panic. Losing your cool and plunging five stories off a nearby rooftop won't get you a portable G5 any faster, unless of course there are G5 PowerBooks in the afterlife, which is a possibility we haven't yet ruled out completely, but which we still classify as highly unlikely at best...

  • 4646: Free Eats AND Free Tunes (4/21/04)   Just a friendly reminder, folks: the iTunes Pepsi promo ended a few weeks back, and you've only got another week or so before the redemption period ends, so don't forget to download any remaining free songs before May hits...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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