Author: JT Smith
Author: JT Smith
Author: JT Smith
I love MandrakeSoft.
I love its product. I think its software team is great, but the
company’s recent “strategy” of begging for money is ridiculous posture for any
for-profit company. It may be time for MandrakeSoft to return to its roots.
It must be that time of the year. My local National Public Radio affiliate is
begging for money. At least four times a year, the airwaves at the lower end of
the FM dial are clogged up with boring mid-level executives, whining
for dough and threatening to drive their Volvos over to CBS if I don’t
fork over another $10 a month.
This means they have come begging only twice as often as
MandrakeSoft during the last year.
I have a problem with this. I don’t mind being guilt-tripped into forking over a little dough to my local public radio station. After all, where else will you hear a music marathon featuring the
Portsmouth Symphonia? Certainly not on commercial radio.
I do have a problem with making regular contributions to the folks
at MandrakeSoft, not that they have stopped asking. About a year ago,
they were warning everyone that they were having trouble making ends meet,
and were effectively soliciting contributions. Last summer the company put together a multimillion dollar IPO of sorts, selling off 20% of
the company for a little under $4 million dollars.
That was nearly $4 million raised despite the fact that MandrakeSoft had nothing in
the way of decent financial prospects, and no obvious business plan
that would ever turn the company into a promising investment.
I cheered them on. Last May, I suggested that there
was a good case to be made for Mandrake, although not a
particularly good financial case. I did think the company might be able
to keep its burn rate under control until executives there figured out a way to run
the company as a business.
the end of the year, Mandrake was asking enthusiasts to chip in $5
dollars a month to join something called the Mandrake Club. By the
beginning of this week, the company was back louder than ever, stating that, the “Mandrake Linux distribution’s short-term future is in jeopardy due to a simple factor:
money.” The newest fund-raising gimmick? Corporate club memberships,
with fees ranging from $2,500 to $100,000. Among the perks: direct
downloads from Mandrake servers.
MandrakeSoft is assuring users that its current financial straits
are temporary. The company is about to release version 8.2 of Linux Mandrake. The company expects to be profitable in 90 days.
Of course, the company also planned to be profitable 90 days
This really wouldn’t be a problem if MandrakeSoft was a little more
like National Public Radio. No one ever figured that NPR would
become self sufficient. Likewise, MandrakeSoft was originally set up as a
non-profit. It began its existence as a volunteer project to upgrade and localize
Red Hat’s version of Linux, combined with the KDE user interface. Almost
from the day the company declared itself a profit-seeking corporation,
observers have had trouble figuring out how the firm expected to make money,
although MandrakeSoft leaders keep insisting they are going to try.
And that’s silly. In some ways, the company is a lot like your local
public radio station. Public radio puts out a reasonably good product and
owns the top income demographics in most markets. However, it has no
means of forcing its user base to pay for its services. MandrakeSoft,
more than most Linux firms, has the same problem. There’s a reason that
Linux firms like Red Hat walked away from the end-user, desktop business. Setting up and managing a massive server farm at companies like AOL requires plenty
of onsite support and more than a little custom development. There’s a
potential revenue stream and an obvious market. By comparison, MandrakeSoft’s
desktop Linux is a shrinkwrapped product. No matter how good it is, there’s little
need for support and there’s no reason that a company should ever
have to fork over cash for anything other than the minimum single
license to run an entire floor of workstations.
One important difference is that NPR is supposed to be a non-profit.
MandrakeSoft isn’t. The company is backed by firms like AXA
and ABN Amro — both gigantic financial service companies. Since when did you send a love offering to your local bank? In addition, the company has yet to float 80% of its stock. Last I checked, the current trading price was still trading at around $3.50. If MandrakeSoft needs to raise a little cash, it could always sell some of the remaining stock.
If selling stock or heading to the bank is not an option for
Mandrake, the firm may have to face the fact that it may not be viable as a
for-profit entity. It may be painful, but it’s not the end of the world. Other
firms have restructured. Plenty of private schools, water and sewer
companies, hospitals and real-estate holding companies have made the
transition to becoming non-profit institutions. There’s no reason a software
developer couldn’t do the same thing.
And when MandrakeSoft does, I’ll mail it a nice contribution.
Author: JT Smith
the “install fest”, watched demonstrations or participated in workshops. The event also had some BSD content: a booth with (Net)BSD was available as
well as several presentations mentioning NetBSD in detail.”
- Open Source
Author: JT Smith
It came in first in the Desktop Environment of the Year category
with almost 69% of the votes. In addition, KDE standouts
Konqueror tied with
Mozilla (22%) as Browser of the
took top honors as Mail Client of the Year (beating
by a large margin); and KOffice
earned second place (substantially behind
Office Suite of the Year. Check out the
Author: JT Smith
Linux software is in the same place now that DOS software was in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The trend then was shareware (Doom and Wolfenstein come to mind) and freeware. This trend went the way of the Dodo when the market was opened up by Redmond. It became obvious that there was a profitable market in the PC area because a little program called “Windows” was going to make PCs easier to use. Prior to that only geeks, colleges, businesses and the military were really ‘into’ PCs. Shareware of old transformed into what we know now as demos.
If Linux is to succeed in gaining it’s deserved place in the market a few things need to happen.
- An all out attack on the U.S. desktop market via an assertive ad campaign (i.e SuperBowl spot)
- Big money investors that will sink big money into it in hopes of an even bigger return.
- A distro that will not only attack the desktop environment to make it absolutely usable by all user but one that is willing to develope bundled software of it’s own (Office and Quickbooks like), not to mention aggresively making internet bundling as IE did….charging websites to be added into the bookmarks folder by default.
- If any distro is to take on this task then it must address these issues inhouse. A) Easier installation. B) The desktop. C) Office Suite D) Financial Suite E) Games (not the soltaire variety but Sierra and Apogee variety). F) Attract the attention of major vendors like Apple etc.
Why are companies like Loki going belly-up? Because they limited themselves. Loki’s development of Linux games was a noble cause but because they ignored th mainstream Windows users in their campaign they lost. If they wanted to develope games just for Linux then what (IMHO) they should have done was attacked both markets using mainstream sales to propel the company, then once the Linux market grew big enough to support them soley…dump Windows development. Which would do something else, attract even more users towards Linux for their beloved games.
In the 80’s and 90’s I played a lot of Sierra titles because their games challenged my intellect (yeah I’m the geek variety). But recently Sierra dumped it’s Adventure genre because there wasn’t a huge demand for them in comparison to other genres……PCs were no longer just for intelects and geeks. If someone could convince a company as big as Sierra that this genre has a place in Linux (and it does in my opinion) and if we will pay to for these game then perhaps other companies would follow their lead.
Attacking only one small part of the market and ignoring the larger more profitable side is nothing short of shooting yourself in the foot. And with the recent financial woes of certain companies I think it is time we rethink the marketing of Linux Distros.
Let’s face it, I go into a large software store and I see aisles and aisles of Windows software. But when I ask do you have any Linux software I get pointed to two boxes….one a copy of RedHat 7.2 and Mnadrake 8.1. Why is this? Because Linux distros literally pull each other apart. Now I love freedom of choice just like the next TuxHead, But what needs to happen….no, what has to happen is each of the distros needs to consolodate into only One company. No more distros targeting a small sector, but One that will target the world market.
If each of these distros would simply meet in one place and consolodate their efforts then the market will be stood on it’s ear. Financial centers would start to drool and Silicon Valley would start to think “Micro-who?”.
I don’t think this will happen overnight, but I hope that this idea is passed on to those in charge of heading distro managment and they give it some thought. Hell, I’d even be willing to attend the meeting and give my 2 cents worth……Scratch that I’d even take on the task of leading it…I’m brash enough to give Steve Ballmer a run that he wouldn’t soon forget.