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Interview with Mandrake's Head Honchos 130

Posted by Hemos
from the talking-with-the-men dept.
Shipud writes "Newsforge has an interview with MandrakeSoft CEO François Bancilhon, and Mandrakelinux co-founders Jacques Le Marois and Gaël Duval. Among the issues discussed are a the business model for a GPL-based public company, Mandrakesoft's shares, the role of user subscription in funding, the bankruptcy, Xfree 4.4's new non-GPL license, and more."
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Interview with Mandrake's Head Honchos

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2004 @03:47PM (#9455897)
    ...you can hear [linuxworld.com] Francois too if you like :)

    It's a good interview
  • Old interview. (Score:3, Informative)

    by tkittel (619119) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @03:50PM (#9455933)
    It is an interesting interview, but it was published more than a month ago on may 12th.

    (and I think it was also covered on /. back then).
    • That's a relief, I thought I was going to have to wait until next year to get Mandrake 10.

      from the interview...
      "Mandrake10 Official boxed sets will be shipped out on about May 10"
    • Re:Old interview. (Score:3, Informative)

      by matthewn (91381)
      Yeah -- this interview is already out of date in at least two respects. For one, cooker now includes the x.org server. For another, their distribution deal with O'Reilly is now a matter of public record.
    • I am the poster, and you are right, it's over a month old. However, I only got wind of this now, and it seemed still relevant & interesting. As far as I know, this was not covered previously on /.
      • It appears you are right, a search on /. old stories on "mandrake" didn't turn up anything.

        I probably read it at linux weekly news then or somewhere else...

  • sc0wned! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by astrokid (779104) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#9455961)
    I thought it was funny:

    A GPL-based business isn't the easiest model to be successful at; what makes it successful?

    FB: A GPL-based business has lots of advantages, such as benefiting from a huge contributor team who help develop and improve our products, and also communicate.

    JLM: If you look to the history of Linux distributions, you will see that the fastest growing are the ones which follow the Open Source rules. Most of the proprietary ones have completely failed. Caldera/SCO is a good example.
    • Re:sc0wned! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TWX (665546) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:43PM (#9456583)
      OpenLinux being an example of a badly assembled distribution had nothing to do with it...

      At least Slackware, even with its problems has a long history and has an avid base of followers. Debian has ease post-install administration and maintains a good place with their different versions. Gentoo has a lot of fans of the "bleeding edge". RedHat and SuSE both have good corporate and community support for those who want something pretty right out of the box.

      I didn't see Caldera OpenLinux having any of these, and there were forces resistant to fully accept the GPL as well. The only surprise is that they lasted long enough to turn into SCOX.
  • Pitfall of VC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wombatmobile (623057) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @03:52PM (#9455966)

    GD: Besides not having cut costs enough and early enough, I think that the core of the problem was certainly to consider venture cash as revenues, and thus growing the MandrakeSoft structure artificially.

    Yes. Worth remembering, that one.

  • MandrakeSoft (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xenostar (746407)
    It seems that an OSS-based company has to struggle for survival at all times. They are doing a great job, though, and eventhough I personally don't use Mandrake, I respect all the work they've done with it. Hope they come up with a solid business model and start making real money.
    • Re:MandrakeSoft (Score:3, Informative)

      by vsprintf (579676)

      Hope they come up with a solid business model and start making real money.

      I'm going to have to make a copy of this comment so I don't have to write it yet again the next time this comes up. Mandrake's Linux business has always done well, although I don't know what you mean by "real money". They got into trouble during the dotbomb era when they were saddled with a "world class management" who did what CxOs are supposed to do and looted the company while plunging it into debt. To Mandrake's credit, they

    • I use it, though. Mandrake is a great distribution, newbies and power users alike. It has a good set of tools, and often ducks up polished as a "future looking" type of Linux distribution.

      Now, they're a bit independent in the whole distro mess, I think they might be the biggest still not-so-extremely commercial distribution while still maintaining a working business model.

      I congratulate Mandrake with exiting bankruptcy, and I hope to see a lot of this distribution in the future. It has a good one, I h
  • by Irvu (248207) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @03:55PM (#9456004)
    Well, you know what that means, that means we can't allow this so called "Mandrake" software to be used in the U.S. Nor any other Linux distro that might have "Parisian leanings". We should follow the lead of the Congressional Lunchroom and ban the use of all francophile software in the U.S. of A.

    From now on all linux users will be forced to switch to Microsoft's FreedomOS! which does most, ok some of the things that other stuff does but without all the pacifism.

    Microsoft's FreedomOS, yours for on $799 and up.
    Because the best way to guarantee freedom is to take away your choices.
    • Perhaps someone can explain to me the slight or not-so-slight bias against the French in the US I keep hearing about

      Is it just good natured ribbing. What's the source ?

      If 'The patriot' is any accurate indication of US history, I would've expected quite the opposite.

      And yes, I realize this is off-topic.

      • Re:They're french? (Score:1, Informative)

        by jonbryce (703250)
        France was opposed to the US invasion of Iraq, and since then, they have been declared "unamerican".
        • by yamla (136560) <chris@@@hypocrite...org> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:36PM (#9456515)
          France was opposed to the US invasion of Iraq, and since then, they have been declared "unamerican".


          Strangely enough, the only people in the world who think this is an insult are Americans.
        • Which is okay, because, as far as I know, they're not American anways.

          • Re:They're french? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:51PM (#9456655)
            France was opposed to the US invasion of Iraq, and since then, they have been declared "unamerican".

            Which is okay, because, as far as I know, they're not American anway


            Yes, but that comes as a huge shock to some Americans.

            I'm joking, of course, but only in part. Americans are particularly good at assuming that people in other countries think just like they do. This probably has something to do with the relative lack of other countries nearby compared to much of the world. In the U.S. one can live hundreds of miles (600? 800?) from the nearest foreign nation. Very little of their media gets into the U.S. either (the BBC and Telemundo are about it). And of course, foreign language (and thus foreign cultural) education are not emphasized in schools here in the U.S. In other words, there's a lack of experience with that sort of thing.
            • Telemundo unamerican? Telemundo is broadcast out of New Jersey. Get with the program, frenchy!

              /
            • Yeah, well Europe has countries, we have states, and guess what people in Texas don't think like those in California, nor those in Florida or New York. It is France's close involvement with Iraq in under the table deals, poor economy, and weak leadership that has them upset, and in trouble. Yeah, in case you haven't heard the US economy is on the rise. I've been hiring. For those of you have have never taken an economics course, and don't understand flame away.
        • by asv108 (141455) <(gro.oiduatahp) (ta) (xela)> on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:23PM (#9456966) Homepage Journal
          The main French government action that caused the Bush administration and others on the far right to promote anti-french behavior was the French government's opposition to a second UN resolution, authorizing the use of force in Iraq. There were plenty of other countries that were against the resolution, but France was the only member of the UN security counsel that said it would veto any attempt at a second resolution outright.

          Personally, I think what France did was a brave a noble act that should be applauded.

          • It wasn't brave and noble. They had oil deals in Iraq in violation the UN sanctions. They didn't want to kill thier Illicit income. Looks a lot like they were bought and paid for by Saddam to me.

            Mycroft
            • Just for the record I'm only blaming the government of France, not the otherwise decent people of France who were just as sold down the river as anyone else screwed by this disgracefull act.

              Mycroft
      • by strictnein (318940) *
        Perhaps someone can explain to me the slight or not-so-slight bias against the French in the US I keep hearing about

        France is in a power play right now and are using the UN/EU/NATO to achieve its goals. It wants to try and regain some of the its past power. The results of this have been to use their power in those orginizations to rebut much of what the US has been trying to do.

        But even before that France and America haven't always gotten along. To them we're crazy gun-toting uncultured right wing Christ
      • Re:They're french? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tarantolato (760537) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:34PM (#9456487) Journal
        Perhaps someone can explain to me the slight or not-so-slight bias against the French in the US I keep hearing about

        1. Your language is different[1].
        2. Your popular press is as prejudiced against us as ours is against you[2].
        3. French foreign policy has a long history of getting in the way of American - I don't just mean the recent stuff either; it goes back at least as far as de Gaulle refusing to endorse the Normandy invasion.
        4. American tourists who come back feeling that the French have been rude to them[3].
        5. Slightly different economic models, and the feeling on each side that the other's is insane.
        6. Historical attraction of American women to foreign men.
        7. Blue-assed baboon syndrome: it's easy to hate the losing side in any important struggle.
        8. Inheritance from British anti-Americanism.
        9. Instinctive dislike of anything that reeks of "high culture".

        [1] Easier to dislike people you don't understand.
        [2] e.g. frequent use of "cowboy" as an insult. or adulation of Michael Moore coupled with the lack of similarly hyper-harsh criticism of Chirac.
        [3] Usually they only go to Paris. Which is a bit like going to New York and then forming judgements about Iowa, New Hampshire and Mississippi based on that.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          > Historical attraction of American women to foreign men.

          America, the only place in the world where my gut doesn't stand in the way of getting pussy (for free). Thank you BritSpeak!

          ps: I love Linux.
        • Actually, while much of what you said has merit (esp the part about judging a coutry based on ONE famous city), number six is pretty much a general truth. Both men and Women tend to be attracted to the exotic. And a non-anoying accent alone is often enough.

          Mycroft
        • > . French foreign policy has a long history of getting in the way of American Oh my god! You mean they don't think the way american people do? That's very undemocratic; Bush should make them shut up.
    • Does that mean we need to rename Mandrake to "Freedom Linux"?

      • Re:They're French?! (Score:3, Informative)

        by vsprintf (579676)

        Does that mean we need to rename Mandrake to "Freedom Linux"?

        Sounds like a good name to me, especially since they lost the court fight to use the name "Mandrake". Seriously. Apparently the syndicate that has the rights to "Mandrake the Magician" took exception, and the French courts agreed. And yes, I use Mandrake . . . or whatever it's going to be called.

  • by gfxguy (98788) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @04:00PM (#9456073)
    Over two weeks ago and still haven't received it. So ask me to support them, but now two weekends (the time I have to play with linux) are gone for good while I could have ordred cheapbytes CDs and had them last week.
    • seems like a personal problem...

      This happens all the time and not just with Software companies.

      I took the easy route - I downloaded the community edition. Nice to see the article. I think I'll wait an hour or two to ignore the /. effect.
      • I took the easy route - I downloaded the community edition.

        Why would you do that? The official edition is available on the FTP servers and by bittorrent. You do not want to deal with the bugs in 10.0 Community, if the first ISO will even boot. Go download 10.0 Official. The rest of us took the hits for you - take advantage of it.

    • by grqb (410789)
      I ordered the powerpack cds and it took about 2.5 weeks to deliver to Canada. I'm not sure why it takes so long to hand over a small box of 6 cds to UPS. It only took UPS 3 days to deliver.

      Maybe this is a sign that Linux really is on the rise? Orders that are overloading Mandrake? ...I doubt it...It also takes forever for Mandrake to reply to emails too.
      • No, I just think it's incompetence, because the box was sitting on my porch when I arrived home, and I opened it to discover one of the discs missing.

        For anyone considering Mandrake, download it or get it from cheapbytes. If you want to support them, then go ahead and order it, but if you actually want it in a timely manner, you'll have to do it yourself.
        • For anyone considering Mandrake, download it or get it from cheapbytes. If you want to support them, then go ahead and order it, but if you actually want it in a timely manner, you'll have to do it yourself.

          With the club membership you get access to the club mirrors for a whole year, don't have to wait for shipping, and don't cost them money on packaging, etc.
    • Wow, when I ordered my 9.2 DVD (no box, just the DVD from the Mandrake website) it came 2 day air. The FedEx guy came to place 3 times in one day to make sure it got there on the second day. Either it's harder to ship the box, or things with shipping have gone downhill since 9.2 came out. I also never expected something so cool from FedEx, but I have to give the guy credit, he came by 3 times in the same day. Maybe I just got lucky. I'm sorry waiting for the box is tainting your experience. Mandrake 9
  • Kudos to Mandrakesoft for getting out of their bankruptcy situation. They certainly have the possibility of becoming a leader in Linux distributions, since Red Hat has dropped the ball to focus on enterprise linux. Does anyone remember the days when Mandrake was little more than a relabelled RedHat with some slight modifications? I would never have guessed they'd still be around.
  • Ya listening, Apple? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by stratjakt (596332)
    GD: Adopt a business model that is in harmony with Open Source Software; do not try to do proprietary with Open Source Software. And if you don't believe in OSS, don't do OSS!

    There, you've been told by a frenchman!

    I thought the principle of Open Source was anyone can use it however the hell they please.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      No, "stratjakt", that would be Public Domain. The principle of Open Source is more Wicca than Crowley.
    • Um, you conviniently left out the question that he was answering:

      What advice would you offer to someone who is contemplating starting a GPL-based business?

      Is Apple's a GPL-based business? Nope. Hell, the biggest OSS part of Apple's business would be their use of BSD in Darwin, which, isn't exactly under the GPL now is it? And gimme a break with the frenchman line, jeez.

    • I thought the principle of Open Source was anyone can use it however the hell they please.
      I guess you could (over)simplify that this is the spirit of Open Source. However, this certainly is not the spirit of Free Software where free software must remain free.
    • I thought the principle of Open Source was anyone can use it however the hell they please.

      Then you haven't read the GPL. That is why Mandrake has several versions. Some contain non-OSS material, while the download version is strictly OSS. They follow the rules. What's your point - or gripe?

  • With as much success as a company like Mandrake is having, can't companies like Microsoft see that the days of charging $400 for you OS are gone?
    • Of course, by success I mean pulling themselves out of bankruptcy and whatnot.
      • And by pulling themselves out of bankruptcy you mean by begging for donations from their "fanbase", or zealots, or followers, disciples, etc..

        Yeah, I'm sure the whine and beg business model will be all the rage on Wall St this time next year, those Europeans are always ahead on the fashions!
        • I'd say that for the amount of financial trouble they were in, the "whine and beg" was kept pretty quiet. It wasn't like something came up every 30 minutes saying, "Give us money!".
        • by calethix (537786) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:10PM (#9456867) Homepage
          Normally I find the majority of your posts to be pretty entertaining but I don't think I would put Mandrake in the 'begging' category.
          So they have a bunch of stuff on the download page asking you to donate, big deal. It's not like every so often, you run a program and it reminds you to donate in the same fashion as some shareware.

          Personally, I would much sooner make a donation to Mandrake based on how they treat their customers than buy Microsoft software. I'm lucky enough to get the professional versions of Windows and Office through my school if I wish. On the rare ocassion that I was working on a relative's PC with the home edition of something, I found product activation to be quite annoying.

          Besides, getting out of bankruptcty wasn't just about getting more donations. They had to take a look at their business and cut out what was wasteful to survive. That by itself should be a lesson to other companies which think the only way out of a problem is to gouge their customers a little more instead of looking for internal problems.
        • And by pulling themselves out of bankruptcy you mean by begging for donations from their "fanbase", or zealots, or followers, disciples, etc..

          What pushed your hot button on this topic? You can make yourself feel superior by calling Linux users zealots and disciples if you want, but it won't change the tide. The fact is that Mandrake offered privileges to those users willing to pay for them. We get first access to downloads and discounts on the commercial (yes, commercial) packages as well as other perk

    • I couldn't agree more. The largest, most profitable, arguably most successful company in history should definitely follow the shining example set by a bankrupt startup.
      • ...I like the underlying sarcasm there, but how many times did Microsoft have a brush with bankruptcy in their beginnings? They did have to compete with IBM at one point...
      • I couldn't agree more. The largest, most profitable, arguably most successful company in history should definitely follow the shining example set by a bankrupt startup.

        That would be better than having Mandrake follow the example of the morally bankrupt "arguably most successful company in history". Some things are more important than money, but I don't expect you to believe that.

        • Ah, that's very idealistic. Unfortunately, whether or not a company has morals is a moot point if they're finacially bankrupt. Change is only possible with money and power. Good people who actually have real impact on society: Larry Flynt, Howard Stern, Michael Moore. Notice that all of them have either a lot of money, a lot of influence, or both. A 60 person company on the verge of bankruptcy can't have very much impact on much of anything.
          • Unfortunately, whether or not a company has morals is a moot point if they're finacially bankrupt.

            I suppose you enjoy listening to yourself talk. Mandrake is no longer in bankruptcy. Do I need to list a bunch of major companies that have gone through bankruptcy for you? The public perception of a company's morals can have a significant "impact" on its future. Take Worldcom for example.

            Good people who actually have real impact on society: Larry Flynt, Howard Stern, Michael Moore. . . . A 60 person

  • If you hang out on the Cooker mailing list, you'll see that these guys favor the Debian way of doing things. You can see that with their new release model
  • Mandrake's luckily not dead, but it's always worth to read a story, how other people didn't manage or had trouble leading business - so we can learn from their faults. You can IMO learn more from them, than from reading success stories. For example, check this one [gamespot.com]!
  • OSDN Notice? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by ProudClod (752352)
    This is the first time I've seen a link to Newsforge without the "Slashdot and Newsforge both part of OSDN" disclaimer.

    Is this an unintentional omission?
  • Among the issues discussed are... Xfree 4.4's new non-GPL license...

    I guess this is a discussion?
    FB: Yes. We disagree with the new license with regards to the GPL.
    • I guess the news that Mandrake is planning to join the massive shift to X.org with the next Cooker version is more recent than this interview. Guess there's not much of an issue there any more.
  • This story is a MONTH old! Stop posting crusty news!
  • Club membership... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by linuxlover (40375) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @05:27PM (#9456998) Homepage
    I have been a Mandrake Club member for last 2 years. My membership expires in a few days and I am re-thinking my committment.

    One thing I was dissappointed was the 'rpm voting of members'. When KDE 3.2 was released, there were no MDK packages any where in MDK website (or I couldn't find with thier search). Not even in club area. In the voting area, there were numerous requests for KDe3.2-mdk.rpms for MDK 9.2. But weeks went by without no response from MDK team. Finally I was so sick of waiting and installed through 'konstruct' (what a nice piece of software!).

    So now that MDK is making some money and they are not as 'needy' as they were couple of years back, I'll probably skip renewing my membership.

    Are there any other 'tangible' benefits for club members that I am not aware of?

    • http://richardlinux.net/

      I just discovered this one tonight. He already has the KDE 3.2.2 rpms. The 3.2.3 are comming soon apparently. It would be nice if mandrake was faster and actually released these, but I'm a poor college student and I didn't pay so I can't complain. Mandrake 10 is the easiest distro I've ever used. I'd recommend it to anyone trying linux out for the first time. I'll eventually grow up a little and switch to gentoo because of the portage system, but it's great to get your feet we
  • Tone of interview (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Laxitive (10360) on Thursday June 17, 2004 @07:42PM (#9458220) Journal
    This interview was actually very refreshing, a large part due to the way in which the questions were answered:

    The bankruptcy issue loomed over MandrakeSoft for a long time. What led to the bankruptcy filing?
    FB: At the time, we had to seek protection for a simple reason: There was no more cash in bank, and our revenues were still lower than our expenses. It was a matter of a few months, but it was needed.

    Short answer: "we were broke". No doubletalk, no spin.

    MandrakeSoft made posting asking the community to help them with their financial woes. Some have said that MandrakeSoft essentially begged for money. Any truth to that?
    FB: Yes, the community of Mandrakelinux users helped us, but they get something in return: We're still here, we improved much, and we keep on providing products that fit their needs.

    Translation: yeah, we begged, but we had to, and it paid off in the end. Now we're stronger for it.

    What about the problems with NTFS in the Community Edition?
    FB: This was something that never should have made it into the CE. This should have been caught in our developmental process. We have some definite improving to do.

    I'm not pulling these quotes out to make fun of Mandrake or anything. The thing is, it's easy for companies and representatives to talk straight when they're speaking about their successes. What's hard is to acknowledge failures, and acknowledge them directly. The fact that the responders didn't try to beat around the bush, and actually answered the questions posed is extremely promising. I'm not a Mandrake user, but the fact that these guys seem to talk straight makes me trust them quite a bit more than other companies.

    If I ever have to choose a distribution to recommend to someone who is not too familiar with Linux, I think I have a pretty good idea of who I'll go with now.

    -Laxitive

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