Mandrakesoft Sees Room For Several Linux Players
Mandrakesoft's Look at the Big Picture
"We think that the Linux market is big, and that there's room available for several Linux players," said Ga�l Duval, the founder of Mandrakelinux and a co-founder of Mandrakesoft. With much of the Linux industry consolidating around Novell/SUSE and Red Hat, and some other smaller Linux distributions feeling the squeeze, Mandrakesoft managed to return to profitability in the first quarter of the year. Right now, the Linux distributor is brimming with activity around new products, partnerships, and Web-based services.
Beyond plans to exit the French equivalent of bankruptcy, Mandrakesoft's flurry of announcements since January has included Mandrakesoft 10.0 Community, a new version of its flagship product; Mandrakesoft 10.0 Official for AMD64; and Personalized Solutions and Maintenance Program (PSMP), a new online offering geared to small to medium-sized businesses, government agencies, and other organizations that want to purchase Linux at volume prices.
For the future, Mandrakesoft is eyeing new products for corporate enterprise use, a deal with a major hardware maker, and improved security updating, Duval said in an interview.
"There will be an exciting product made in partnership with a well known hardware maker. We're (also) going to launch more and more products specifically dedicated to use in corporations. We will start with a new version of Corporate Server, plus a new product called 'Corporate Desktop,'" according to Duval.
Mandrakesoft voluntarily entered Chapter 11-like status in January, 2003. On March 30 of this year, after the vendor posted its first profitable quarter since 1999, the French Commerce Court in Paris approved the company's plan to emerge from redressement judicaire. Under the plan, Mandrakesoft will repay its creditors over a nine-year period, without recapitalization.
During an observation period following the bankrupcty filing, Mandrakesoft concentrated on refocusing its core business on Linux, cutting costs, and developing "high margin" revenue lines.
Instead of lower margin retail boxes, Mandrakesoft is now trying to put more of its energies into online sales and Mandrakeclub subscriptions. Now 20,000 members strong, Mandrakeclub delivers an online forum to subscribers, along with early access to Mandrakesoft products and other benefits, Duval said.
Meanwhile, Hewlett-Packard continues to ship PCs bundled with Mandrakelinux 9.2. despite a recently unveiled deal with Novell SUSE. "These PCs are selling very well. We have other projects with HP, and with additional PC manufacturers, too," according to Duval.
The road back to profiability hasn't been painless, though, he admitted. "Unfortunately, there were layoffs, including a world-class but expensive management team. There were also big costs that took almost two years to cut, such as several agreements with service providers, and some unused workplaces," he elaborated.
Yet Duval also pointed to a number of factors that give him confidence in Mandrakesoft's future. "Our user base is okay, and it's growing quickly," Duval said.
Duval also continues to view the Mandrakelinux distro as unique. "The product itself is certainly one of the most advanced Linux distros currently available, and it's now becoming one of the most polished. It comes with an incredible number of applications," he contended.
"Secondly, we do not focus on 'the desktop' or 'the server.' We just want to make Linux easier to use, regardless of what users want to do with Linux. So Mandrakelinux is used for tasks ranging from big corporate Web and database servers, to scientific workstations in large research centers, multimedia applications, and home and corporate office apps," Duval added.
"Last but not least, Mandrakelinux is not just a product. It's a huge community of users who interact with each other and with Mandrakesoft. Mandrakesoft is one of the most open-minded publishers of Linux. We really believe that we have a mission to promote open source software, and to prove that it's a credible alternative to commercial software. Many users of Mandrakelinux understand this and feel empowered by it," according to Duval.
Along the way, Mandrakesoft has been introducing new features into its products. For instance, Mandrakelinux 10.0 Community adds Mandrakeonline, as well as the Mandrakegalaxy 2 desktop theme.
"We realize that Mandrakelinux users need to keep their systems clean, and that they need to track their security updates. Mandrakesoft already publicly provides a support policy and free security updates for all its products, including the download edition of Mandrakelinux," Duval said.
"But Mandrakeonline offers more than just acceess to free security updates. It warns the user when a new security update is available, either by e-mail or by blinking a Mandrakesoft icon on the user's desktop. It also provides automatic update, plus an update tracking service for (multiple) machines with a single account. As a result, it's an extremely useful service for system and network administrators. We are soon going to 'launch' Mandrakeonine, and new content is going to appear at http://www.mandrakeonline.net," according to Duval.
Mandrakegalaxy 2, on the other hand, offers an improved look and feel over Mandrakegalaxy 1 through a number of nuances, Duval said. "It's important to recognize that Mandrakegalaxy is not like a simple graphical desktop theme made up of images. Mandrakegalaxy been designed and coded from scratch under both KDE and Gnome. Thus it's very fast, and uses less memory than a bitmap theme," the Mandrakelinux founder maintained.