LWN editor Jonathan Corbet talks with Gaël Duval, creator of Mandrake Linux
and co-founder of MandrakeSoft
LWN: You were the creator of the original Mandrake Linux
distribution, and a co-founder of MandrakeSoft. What is your current role
with the distribution and the company?
GD - I'm officially taking care of MandrakeSoft's communication, but
I'm helping for other things and projects as well.
LWN: In an OSNews interview last
March, you said "9.1 sales and club subscriptions are going to be
key." How are sales and subscriptions going at this point? Are
they at the level you need?
GD - The levels of Club subscriptions and 9.1 sales have been very
good. That's one of the reasons why our future is becoming better every
day. Mandrake 9.1 is an excellent product, that made it successful. On the
other hand, the Mandrake Club and all its benefits, in particular the huge
application repository that can be interfaced with the Mandrake application
manager and dependency solver (URPMI/RPMDrake), has gained popularity among
Mandrake users. As a result, the Club is turning into a real business model
(in short: a free product plus value-added online services). As the whole
Linux retail market has been dramatically and continuously decreasing
during the past 3 years (mostly due to high-speed domestic Internet
connections), this new business model for selling Free Software products
really makes sense, and we certainly are one of the first Linux makers to
enter this model.
LWN: The Mandrake Linux distribution has become difficult to find -
at least, in U.S. stores. Do you plan to try to get back onto retail
shelves (if so, how?), or are retail sales no longer a priority for
GD - There is a simple reason for that: we broke our agreement with
distributor Pearson recently. They are not interested in Linux as they
have been in the past, and we weren't very happy with the sales. So we
made the decision to take time to look for new distributors in the USA,
and we encouraged users to come to MandrakeStore.com where our margins
are really much more interesting than with traditional retail sales.
Anyway Mandrake packs should be back in many US stores with the 9.2
version, with a new distributor. This is important at least for
MandrakeSoft's brandname exposure and presence.
LWN: How is the reorganization process going in general? What
changes is MandrakeSoft making, and how do you expect them to help the
company's long-term survival?
GD - The reorganization is nearly completed. We had to review the
company's priorities in term of technology and businesses. We had to scale
the structure down to the point where we do not spend more money than we
earn. We also had to convince everyone at MandrakeSoft that sales are now
the big priority.
LWN: When does MandrakeSoft expect to emerge from the bankruptcy
GD - We plan to emerge somewhere by the end of the year. So far this
has been a very positive action for us.
LWN: Mandrake Linux tends to be perceived as a desktop-oriented
distribution. Is that how you see it internally? Where do you expect to
see Mandrake deployed most in the future?
GD - The mission of MandrakeSoft is to simplify Linux and make it
available to all. This means: providing full-featured Linux systems that
are easy to install, easy to set up, easy to use. But this doesn't mean
that we focus on the desktop, because we ship many server products,
including very complex ones such as the Multi Network Firewall or MandrakeClustering...
Additionally, simple command line tools such as our package management
tool "URPMI", are often as important as graphical wizards or
applications. The result is now a large range of MandrakeSoft products,
from the "Standard 9.1" which is a desktop OS, to server and dedicated
security products such as the Corporate
Server 2.1 and the Multi Network
Firewall. Such a large offering is perfect for answering companies'
needs, and that's good for MandrakeSoft because this is currently a growing
LWN: Increasingly, other distributors are coming forward with
versions of their products aimed at the desktop. The trickle of reports of
companies and governments choosing Linux for desktop use is growing. Do
you have a sense of when desktop Linux may take a serious part of the
market? How does Mandrake plan to succeed in a larger but more competitive
GD - This desktop thing has been the most recent Linux' hype. Currently
it's clear that "joe user" is not ready yet to migrate his Windows
desktop to a Linux desktop, for many reasons that are not only technical
reasons. This doesn't mean that there is not a growing base of users who
have definately made the switch to Linux on the desktop (this includes
myself). But the point here is that the real market in the desktop field,
which is not a big market yet, is inside corporations, and that is the
market we are currently interested in.
LWN: You have mentioned that MandrakeSoft will be introducing a
clustering product. Clustering seems like an increasingly crowded
marketplace - though, perhaps, one in which a fair amount of money should
be made. What has drawn Mandrake into this market at this time?
GD - There are two simple answers: 1) we had the chance to get
funding for a research project in this area, and this has resulted into a
great and powerful Clustering product. 2) We don't plan yet to sell this
product everywhere in the world like we do with Mandrake Linux: there are
very few actors in the field of Clustering solutions in France, so we are
going to sell it in France and Europe first. Additionally, it's not only a
product, it's a complete solution that doesn't make sense without the
support and knowledge-transfer which are are provided with this solution.
LWN: What is MandrakeSoft's position on the SCO lawsuit? Are you
taking any steps in response to SCO's allegations?
GD - Our position is very simple: so far there are mostly FUD and
rumours. Let's wait for facts. Anyway, the whole story could possibly
impact Linux' image negatively so we have to take care of that. But in the
end my guess is that SCO is doing a huge error and is going to suffer much
from the situation.
LWN: What enhancements can Mandrake Linux users look forward to in
the next release?
GD - Wait and see :-)
LWN: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
GD - Producing and selling Free Software products makes sense. It only
needs a good business model.
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