Mandrakesoft finds footing with new roots

The past few years have been a roller coaster ride for Paris-based Mandrakesoft, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2003, emerged in March 2004 with a nine-month plan to repay its creditors, thanks in part to the company's first profitable quarter in the Q4 2003.

Since then, the company has restructured its business to focus on Linux, slashed costs, simplified its business structure and developed some high-margin revenue lines.

In this exclusive interview, Mandrakesoft co-founder Gael Duval speaks with SearchEnterpriseLinux.com about successfully emerging from bankruptcy protection, the latest happenings in Linux and the direction he hopes to take the company.

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One could say a big story is Mandrakesoft's comeback from bankruptcy and its plans to move from a popular free distribution to a corporate distribution. What's your take on that assessment?
The comeback from bankruptcy is more like an old story already, and in my opinion, profitability is the new story.

Regarding the move from a popular free distribution to a corporate distribution, it is certainly a bit exaggerated. We will keep offering a free download Mandrakelinux distribution, officially supported -- including security updates. On the other hand, we did some business with corporations for years -- the new story is that we are starting to get big deals in this area.

The comeback from bankruptcy is more like an old story already, and in my opinion, profitability is the new story.
Gael Duval
co-founderMandrakesoft
The win in France for Mandrakelinux Corporate Server (MCS) was a good start. What's next?
Recently, two big deals were announced: The [Windows] NT to Mandrakelinux Migration at French Ministry of Equipment -- the secure OS consortium (with EAL5 certification) for Defense.

Other deals have also been signed but will be announced later. Sometimes we cannot even communicate [them], such as with a big U.S. company that I can't name.

Regarding France, there is currently an interesting deal around student PCs. Since [late September], French University students are currently offered [the option] to purchase Wi-Fi laptops at an affordable price. For one euro every day for three years, they get a nice laptop and software. There is a choice between a dozen models, including laptop PCs with Windows, some Macs and two laptops ship with Mandrakelinux 10.0 – and, of course, they are among the less expensive. What's driving your move from this popular free distribution model to a corporate one?
There is no real move; it's more like the first results of several years of work. Our first Corporate Server was released in 2000.

On the other hand, we keep on releasing cool products for individuals, such as MandrakeMove and GlobeTrotter. Why do you believe corporate IT shops should evaluate MCS along with Red Hat Enterprise Edition (RHEE) and SuSE?
Why shouldn't they? The base is Linux; now some prefer Mandrakelinux, some prefer other Linux distributions. We're OK with that, but we work hard to release the best solutions to corporations. What differentiates MCS from Red Hat and SuSE enterprise editions? How does it stack up feature-wise to those two?
The Corporate Server benefits from several years of experience in online services, including easy software updates, which, for instance, handles parallelization of updates with URPMI. These are the kind of "small" features that makes Mandrakesoft products fit well with business needs.

The Corporate Server support/assistance scope also benefits from an excellent reputation.

By the way, the new Corporate Server will be released very soon, and we will soon release the first Mandrakesoft Corporate Desktop, too. What are some key things IT shops should know about MCS? What's in it for businesses?
The Corporate Server is not designed for office or multimedia applications. It's been designed for security, performance and robustness. In addition, coupled with online services and support, it's an excellent choice for corporations. Is there a niche that Mandrakesoft is targeting?
Mandrakesoft's ambition has always been to go global. As we are still a young and small organization, we still have to rely much on the Internet to have us known around the planet, and there are Mandrakelinux users all over the world now. We currently are the most internationalized Linux product, with more than 60 languages fully supported.

Anyway, we are currently focusing most of our corporate efforts onto the French local market -- large accounts and administrations -- because we can't address these markets everywhere at the same time. We have to collect large successes and credibility first, grow and then we will address other countries. So, the French administration and corporations are currently our niche.

Read more
Mandrake seeks higher Linux security certification
What about global support offerings from Mandrakesoft?
Support offerings are available for all our products, either part of the product offering, or may also be purchased separately.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Jack Loftus, News Writer

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