May 28, 2001

Weekly news wrap-up: Mandrake layoffs; Linux pronounced dead on desktop

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross

Popular Linux distribution MandrakeSoft showed that it isn't immune from the layoff trends hitting Open Source companies. NewsForge reported this week that Mandrake let go of its former CEO Henri Poole, its CTO, and about 25 other employees in a house-cleaning that seemed to have as much to do about the company's direction as about tough economic times.

Company co-founder and new CEO Jacques Le Marois later answered questions from NewsForge editor in chief Robin Miller, with Le Marois saying Mandrake was refocusing on its Linux business, instead of Poole's vision of e-services not tied to Linux. Le Marois also mentioned Mandrake's plan for an IPO sometime soon, and he said his company is close to profitability. Mandrake, which has worked to make Linux easier for the desktop user, also issued a press release saying some of the same things.

This news came after the normally upbeat Linux site LinuxPlanet published an editorial saying Linux on the desktop is dead. The column was in response to the recent news that desktop company Eazel has called it quits. That piece generated several responses, even from another columnist at LinuxPlanet, who argued that the potential for Linux on the desktop is "never better."

Microsoft: No more toys for snitches

Apparently, Microsoft has rethought its decision to give prizes to computer dealers who rat on customers buying computers without an operating system. Microsoft originally thought it'd catch customers using pirated Windows, but apparently didn't stop to consider some of those naked PCs might be used for Linux or BSD or the Joe's Garage Free Operating System. (OK, so I'm making that one up.) But now, a Microsoft executive called the snitching program "stupid" and canceled it without giving a reason, although "stupid" may be a good enough reason.

Linux 2.4.5 released

We've noted previously that Linux kernel hacker Alan Cox seems like one busy dude. This week, he and the kernel team released several updates to the 2.4.4 kernel, culminating in its merger with the 2.4.5 kernel. For all those who want the latest and greatest, check it out.

Large losses

NewsForge news editor Dan Berkes mentioned it in his latest Open Source stock report, but lest we get accused of ignoring bad news from the home team, we'll mention this here, too: NewsForge parent VA Linux posted losses of $19 million this last quarter, about four times its loss in the same quarter last year. VA's stock price actually went up because it slightly beat street estimates of a 40-cent per share loss.

New in NewsForge

NewsForge published these interesting stories this week, in case you missed them:

MandrakeSoft's layoffs, and other recent problems with Open Source business plans, prompted business columnist Jack Bryar to ask, is this all just bad luck, or do many Open Source companies have bad business plans?

News editor Tina Gasperson reported that former Free Software champion ArsDigita is moving away from that philosophy. The company is planning to market proprietary extensions to its ArsDigita Community System software.

In much sillier news, it appears that fans of KDE are stacking the deck in an online poll of favorite Linux desktops, Tina reported.

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