Lindows Prepares to Go Public

Lindows, the developer of Linux-based software best known for its ongoing trademark tussles with Microsoft, has begun the process to become a publicly traded company.

Lindows, based in San Diego, has filed a registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering of its common stock, the company announced Tuesday. Lindows has chosen WR Hambrecht as the offering's lead manager, while Roth Capital Partners will be co-manager.

The offering's proposed maximum aggregate price as stated in the S-1 filing made with the SEC is $57 million. Lindows expects to use the money it raises to continue developing products and distribution channels, expand sales and marketing activities, increase staff, and repay debt obligations of about $10.4 million to company founder Michael Robertson. Robertson also serves as the company's chairman and chief executive officer.

Lindows makes Linux-based operating systems and applications. Last week, the company changed the name of its operating system from LindowsOS to Linspire as a result of a global legal assault by Microsoft that began in late 2001.

Microsoft has sued Lindows over trademark infringement in several countries over the similarity of the Lindows and Windows names.

The registration statement filed with the SEC hasn't yet become effective.

Looking Into Lindows

Several interesting insights into Lindows' operations included in the SEC filing include:

-- Between mid-2001, when it was incorporated, and December 31, 2003, Lindows racked up net losses totaling $11.9 million and has generated net revenue of $2.2 million. About 25 percent of the company's net revenue comes from outside of the U.S.

"We expect to continue to incur significant losses over the next several years, and we may never become profitable," the filing reads. In fact, an audit report from the company's independent auditors states that Lindows' historical losses and negative cash flows from operations "raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern."

-- Existing cash and expected proceeds from the IPO should be sufficient to fund the company's operations for "at least the next 24 months," after which the company might need to raise additional capital. "We can't be certain that we will be able to obtain financing on commercially reasonable terms or at all," the filing reads.

-- Lindows' distributor in Japan, Livedoor, recently acquired Turbolinux and may intend to market that competing operating system in Japan while it also peddles the Lindows products. The distribution agreement with Livedoor generated 11 percent of Lindows' net revenue in 2003. The distribution agreement ends in August 2005.

More Legal Woes

-- Lindows is in court with its insurance carrier St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance over the insurance carrier's obligations toward Lindows regarding Lindows' Microsoft litigation in the U.S. and abroad.

St. Paul, Lindows' commercial general liability insurer, sued Lindows in February 2002 in a U.S. district court in California seeking a court declaration that it didn't have to defend or indemnify Lindows in connection with its Microsoft litigation in the U.S. The court ruled that St. Paul has to defend Lindows and that it breached its contract by denying coverage. The court still has to decide on several issues, including damages for St. Paul's breach of contract and its obligation to pay any liability Lindows may have to Microsoft. The court stayed its proceedings pending a final outcome of the Lindows-Microsoft litigation in the U.S.

On January 6, 2004, Lindows sued St. Paul in a U.S. district court in California over the insurance carrier's refusal for coverage related to Lindows' litigation with Microsoft in several countries abroad. Lindows alleges St. Paul has an obligation to defend and if necessary indemnify it in connection with Microsoft litigation abroad. This case is ongoing.

Thus, there is a big question mark on how much Lindows would be responsible for paying for its defense and potential damages to Microsoft.

-- The company has had three names: it was founded as Lindoz , got rebaptized as Lindows.com in September 2001 and became Lindows in March 2004.

-- As of March 31, the company had 62 employees: 38 were in software engineering, 11 in sales and marketing, six in customer service and technical support, and seven in finance and administration.

-- Lindows is proposing "LINE" as its Nasdaq ticker symbol.

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