Kevin Carmony has landed in the same position in which he started his entrepreneurial career , president and chief executive officer of a software company. But a lot has happened in between the time he founded Streamlined Information Systems in 1983 and when he came on board Linspire Inc. , formerly known as Lindows , as president in 2001.
For example, Carmony was one of a handful of employees working with Linspire founder Michael Robertson at a nascent mp3.com when the online music company was sued and subsequently acquired.
“I was managing a small, independent record label right when the Internet was starting to happen,” said Carmony, 47. “Michael had mp3.com and four employees and the Web site blew me away.”
After founding, running and selling numerous companies, Carmony saw his run at mp3.com end in a month when it was purchased by Vivendi Universal.
Then Robertson asked him, “What do you know about Linux?” Carmony responded, “I know nothing about it.”
Robertson went on to pitch the idea for Lindows, a Linux-based operating system that works like Microsoft Windows. While popular in corporate use to run servers, in 2001 Linux was a “no-show” on the desktop, according to Robertson.
So Carmony jumped ship with Robertson to start , after a trademark dispute and $20 million settlement with Microsoft Corp. , what is known today as San Diego-based Linspire. Carmony was charged with the goal of getting Linux technology at the fingertips of everyday consumers.
“Linspire is 100 percent focused on the desktop, in particular the consumer desktop,” Carmony said. “We never even think about servers.
“All along we’ve marketed to the consumer; the end-user. They’re not walking into a consumer electronics store, saying, ‘I need to learn Windows.’ They’re saying, ‘I want to instant message, send e-mail, play games,’ ” said Carmony, explaining that Linspire’s accessible operating system is not just designed for geeks.
Carmony said that 90 percent of computers are running the operating software that came with the computer, following the so-called original equipment manufacturer model where one company’s product is attached to the sale of another company’s product. Linspire is taking this approach to speed up Linux adoption.
“We have about 350 OEMs that pre-install Linspire,” said Carmony. “Most are small manufacturers, but 50 percent of personal computers are sold by small manufacturers.
“We spend a lot of time with Sony, Hewlett-Packard, eMachines, Dell and the little guys who have to compete with those companies.”
Name: Kevin Carmony.
Job titles: President and chief executive officer.
Company: Linspire Inc.
Industry involvement: Software and technology.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business ad & #173;mini & #173;stration, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah.
Born: Sept. 26, 1959, in Ogden.
Residence: Rancho Santa Fe.
Essential business philosophy: Produce and sell something people really, really want.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Love what you do more than your competition.
The latest industry trend: Product convergence, which I think doesn’t make sense in most cases, and history tends to agree with me.
Goals achieved: I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in many different industries, including software, music, clothing and photography.
Goal yet to be achieved: Get average computer users to try and love Linux on their desktop computer.
Best career decision: Starting my own software business while still in college.
Toughest career decision: Leaving a position as vice president with a publicly traded company over a disagreement with management.
Missed opportunity: Not buying more Google stock after its initial public offering.
Mentor: George Martin, producer of numerous Beatles records.
I’ve been told: The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
What I like best about running Linspire: Taking on the most profitable company in the world, Microsoft.
What I like least about my position: Taking on the most profitable company in the world.
Pet peeve: When people try to turn technology into a religion. It’s just a computer.
Most valuable lesson learned: Never put out the first number when negotiating.
Person I’d most like to meet: Paul McCartney.
Most-respected competitor: Microsoft.
Greatest passions: Music, business, movies.
If I had it to do all over I’d: Come out with Freespire two years sooner (the free version of our Linspire operating system which came out about a year ago).
What I’d be doing if I weren’t doing this: It’s not something I’ve had time to think about.
Favorite book/author: “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins.
Favorite status symbol: A genuine smile.
Favorite vacation spot: House-boating at Lake Powell.
If I could have any car, truck, sport utility vehicle, boat or airplane in the world, it would be: Fifty-foot yacht parked at the Marriott Marina along Harbor Drive in downtown San Diego.
Editor’s Note: The original version of this story misstated Kevin Carmony’s age. It has been corrected in this version.