Mandriva in the Storm

It seems that the previous news about Mandriva SA being for sale have been more than simple rumors. Frederic Cuif* (incorrectly unaccented due to limitations in our CMS), active member of the French-speaking Mandriva User Group has summed up the various outcomes and proposed projects he found after contacting several key members of the company in order to gather information. The result of his investigation can be found on his blog, along with a detailed analysis of the Mandriva business model and the proposed outcomes, from a renewed interest in the distribution and the community from Linagora, potential buyer, to what could be the end of the Mandriva adventure if nothing is done. (Thanks to everybody who submitted this)

There are many aspects here that are simply difficult for me to understand as an outsider to the Mandriva community so I checked the history of articles on Mandriva at OSnews (it pays to have an old database). Frédéric mentions financial problems in 2003:

Just want to recall that Mandriva is having financial problems for years. On January 13, 2003, the company management has declared a cessation of payments, which meant it was no longer able to meet its liabilities with available assets.

A few days after that date, OSnews posted this story about the bankruptcy. This press release on the Mandrake site from the Way Back Machine points out that it’s a chapter 11 filing, allowing the company to restructure its assets (as noted by Frédéric in his blog, following the quoted paragraph).

It appears as if it has only been down hill since then, and Mandriva is apparently struggling to reach a sale to secure its future. Interestingly Frédéric mentions surprising recent events:

A recent « leak » (although I don’t know if it really was unintentional or not, because it can be a way to get interest of potential buyers) of a report of the Board of Mandriva has publicly revealed that discussions were underway between the direction of the company and two companies: Lightapp and Linagora.

I have had no information on the draft Lightapp by Arnaud Laprévote, so I can not comment this project. Regarding Linagora the interest shown by Alexander Zapolsky [director at Linagora] for Mandriva is not new, a first attempt failed in 2007.

These last days, the projects have emerged and tensions were very high among employees of Mandriva.

By “project”, I believe he is saying “business plan”, the blog post is in difficult to understand English as it must be a second language to him.

The large French open-source services company Linagora appears to be the best candidate to buy Mandriva and get them out of their troubles.

Linagora is a company known in the open source software world where profits are more important than Mandriva, although, I agree, main activity is not the same. For Alexander Zapolsky, Mandriva must go back as one of the first Linux distribution and get back its image erased by years of poor management and competition filled the room left by Mandriva.

By “where profits are more important than Mandriva” he may mean that Linagora has a more stable financial backing than Mandriva and/or that it is more profit-driven than a community focus in the current Mandriva. Frédéric details the two-fold business plan of Lingura: Community and Business.

Regarding the community, Alexander Zapolsky would like to go back to the fundamentals of the philosophy of free software and offer a « free free » in his words: open source software and free. The commercial products such as Flash or Powerpack are « supposed » to disappear because of too low profits and proprietary software packages asking for license fees (like DVD player) would be available on an online store. On this last point, Oliver and I are speaking with Alexander Zapolsky as we disagree. We believe that these products deserve to be kept with some important modifications, particularly to allow Mrs Michu [French colloquialism for “Mrs. Jones”, as in “The Jones’”] to have a computer that works « out of the box » (PWP) or maintain a technological product that is sold little because few highlighted (Flash).

The aim of Alexander Zapolsky is for him to simplify the Mandriva offer (which is a good thing) and make more reliable products focusing even more on integration. The main lines of the distribution will still be proposed by the community and led by the company and because of that, he wants to give more importance to Cooker to promote development around the distribution.

I cannot seem to fully understand what is implied here under the business side of things.

In business part of his plan, Alexander Zapolsky wishes melt [meld?] some of its products as those with OBM or LinID Mandriva (Pulse, etc..), as they are complementary and could therefore be renamed to reveal the fusion of the two entities. The advantage of having a distribution in its area of expertise can offer a complete offer to customers of « Mandragora » (this is not a final name but one to be used in discussion), all vertical from distribution to the application. Quality of products developped by Mandriva is seen as standards compliant and Alexander Zapolsky wanted to keep the Brazilian part of Mandriva, which is definitely a strong point of this project further.

I believe he is trying to say that Linagora could be looking to provide a vertical platform where they can control both the OS and the apps (their current business), and thus improve the quality of their offering.

Frédéric is essentially saying that Linagora represent the best opportunity for Mandriva and that a certain level of (brace yourself) synergy is present, as well as an interest in the community and philosophical aspects of open source coming from Linagora, where as “the other [potential buyers] just wanted to use Mandriva as a springboard to promote something else (enter the free market in particular) and the social aspect was sometimes nonexistent according to our sources.”

What will the outcome be? The future is not certain yet, but Frédéric is concerned that as the board of directors on both sides argue for a mutual agreement, the real people who matter are being left out of the loop.

The future of the employees seems to play no part inside, and [anger] is growing internally. The community is, too, listening and solution that does not adequately preserve its commitment to the distribution could cause a visceral reaction and lead to a fork to empty the company of its substance and fork Mandriva Linux.

Let’s hope the future is bright for Mandriva Linux! Please provide any corrections and insight you may have in the comments as I may have made mistakes in this article given my lack of knowledge on Mandriva, thanks.


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