Mandriva CEO Francois Bancilhon stopped by the offices of SearchOpenSource.com this week as part of an effort to get the word out about Mandriva Linux 2006.
Through a series of international partnerships, Bancilhon has taken his company out of the depths of bankruptcy and into the black. He expects to take that same company-specific success and apply it to Linux desktops, both for personal and professional use.
Bancilhon may have his work cut out for him, but he aims to keep things simple to attain big results.
What will 2006 mean for the Linux desktop? What do you see driving increased Linux desktop adoption in 2006?
Francois Bancilhon: I see growth in Linux desktop both in the corporate and consumer markets. On the corporate side things will be greater in Europe and for the consumer sector it will predominantly be in the brick-and-mortar market.
To give you a point of reference, Intel is focusing its resources on moving a part of its desktop offerings completely to Linux. The overall perception is that analysts and experts tend to sense a 10% Linux desktop market share by the end of the decade. Now it is more like 2% or 3%, so we will basically add 1% market share each year-over-year. I expect to see some of that growth continue into 2006.
What barriers remain, and how does Mandriva expect to address them in 2006?
Bancilhon: I think one challenge, or should I say one thing that is also helping a lot, is transferring the desktop Linux migration channel from being predominantly software sales to more of an OEM sales channel. I can make the example of Brazil, where a government-sponsored entity has been pushing mass diffusion of a Linux desktop throughout the country.
With this latest 2006 release, what was Mandriva attempting to update, to address?
Bancilhon: For that, I will go back to Mandriva's original philosophy. When we manufactured our first distro, the principle was that we were attempting to bring technology to the masses by making it very simple. I think we have kept that philosophy intact since the beginning, and I love it because I state it in one sentence, and we can all understand what Mandriva is doing.
As one example, we are introducing in Mandriva 2006 new tools to do manage Wi-Fi. It's a simple icon, you click it, and it tells you which APIs you are connected to.
I gave a presentation recently and in the crowd there was a representative from Microsoft who came up to see me afterward and said, 'Wow, this Wi-Fi looks pretty cool.'
How do you differentiate yourself from other Linux desktop distros?
Bancilhon: We are a full application provider rather than just a box spender. Red Hat says to a customer, 'This is my box that you deploy on and then it's not my problem.' We understand … that you need customer applications. We are able to work with you all along the complete cycle of migration.
The second thing is we believe Linux is an operating system that needs to be aggressively priced, and that there needs to be a very strong difference between the customer's Windows and Linux prices.
For No. 3, we believe that in many markets people hate pay-per-box licensing schemas. If prices get too high and they pay high license fees, then what is the difference from what people have today with Microsoft and get tomorrow with Red Hat?
You recently announced the Globetrotter portable Linux desktop. Who's this aimed at? What's the goal?
Bancilhon: The goal behind this device is to get Linux in the hands of people who travel a lot and prefer to carry a disk instead of an entire computer. Also, this allows people to demonstrate the benefits of Linux to their colleagues and friends. This is for people who want to be able to play it safe and try Linux without taking the risk of changing anything to their existing environment.
Can you tell me a little bit about your new target, the corporate desktop environment?
Bancilhon: With the corporate market, we are attempting to define a new product line. Define putting in place consult and support, direct sales and ops. It's a competitive landscape, and some of the deals will certainly compete with Red Hat. This is something we haven't done in the past. These migrations from Unix and Windows to Linux need help in planning, in understanding the process. Most customers will want a custom distro as well in this new corporate environment.