Linux in France: ideas and plans of a MandrakeSoft company and itīs comercial operation. Mandrakeīs co-founder and Vice-President Gael Duval describes talks to OLinux about how he managed to make an international and top seller company as the world number two Linux distribuiton in boxes sold in 1999 in less than two years and also Mandrake plans for an IPO. Will you invest?
OLinux: Say something about your professional and personal background? Where did you graduated? Brief us about your Linux career?
Gael Duval: I'm 26 years old. So no need to tell you that I didn't do much before! I just studied computer sciences for 5 years at University in France. In my last year I specialized in Networking & Electronic Documents. After having used UNIX a lot (Solaris/SunOS) I discovered Linux in 1995. My first Linux distribution was taking 50 diskettes!
OLinux: As founder of Mandrake, how the idea of a distribution came to your mind? Were you inspired by other distributions success?
Gael Duval: This is quite easy. In 1997 I had a need of a Linux distribution which would be easy to install and very easy to use. Red Hat was quite easy to install, but not easy to use. So I put KDE in Red Hat, added a few things for simplifying the users life and I released. This wouldn't have been possible in the proprietary software world! Since that, Mandrake has evolved on its own way and it's good that we can invent many new concepts.
OLinux: When Mandrake was created officially as a company?
Gael Duval: MandrakeSoft was founded in the end of 1998.
OLinux: What is Mandrakes mission and strategy?
Gael Duval: We want to provide Linux to the biggest number of users. Personal users as well as corporates. The strategy is quite clear: we want to improve as much as possible, release the best quality possible, and offer the largest possible variety of products on as many plateforms as possible. That's why we will soon have an offer for the enterprises, and that we don't limit to x86 architecture. The force of Linux is that it runs in x86, SPARC, Alpha, PPC, Mips, 68k... That's not the case for any other proprietary OS!
OLinux: Is Mandrake an internacional company? How many affiliates, distributors and resellers Mandrake works with? By this moment, international revenues are already significant?
Gael Duval: MandrakeSoft has been an international company from the beginning because before it was founded, I already had many contacts all around the world, in Europe, America, Asia, Russia... We have two main offices: one in Europe (Paris), one in the USA (Los Angeles). We have many online resellers (about 50 for south+north America) and two major distributors: MacMillan Software Publishing (we have a 5 years agreement with them), and Kasper. Of course our international revenues are significant, especially from America.
OLinux: What it's your position and responsibilities at Mandrake today?
Gael Duval: Well... My official title is "Vice-President & Co-Founder - Open Source Development".
OLinux: How much Mandrake has grow since then? How much revenues have grown and what is the projection for 2000? How many Mandrake's boxes were sold last year and will be sold in 2000? Where is located Mandrake HeadQuarters?
Gael Duval:We had a fantastic growth! In the end of 1998 we were 3 people in MandrakeSoft. In the end of 1999 we were 40, and right now we are 70. The first Mandrake officially shipped by MandrakeSoft was 5.3. It's been sold at around 3000 items. Then we sold more than 200,000 6.0 + 6.1 packs. The revenues have grown consequently.
Gael Duval: MandrakeSoft headquarters are located in Paris, France.
OLinux: Can you give us an idea, how hard the work is ahead of a Linux company?
Gael Duval: 16 hours a day, from Monday to Sunday. Several hundreds emails fall in my mailbox everyday!
OLinux: How profitable is Linux business in France, German and Europe?
It's ok but not very reactive. The big Linux hype is just starting here. Not any Linux company is on a public market in Europe yet.
OLinux: Give us a panorama of Linux effective and potential growth in these locations?
Gael Duval: It's quite hard to say: we do 70% of revenues in the USA. It seems that it's just beginning in fact.
OLinux:Is Mandrake planning an IPO for his year?
Gael Duval: Yes.
OLinux: Do you have examples of companies that have deployed Linux in a large scale?
Gael Duval: Do you mean in Europe? Do you mean Mandrake Linux? If it's Mandrake Linux, we have official contacts with 180 companies that are already using Mandrake.
OLinux: Give us cases of study about Mandrake usage inside important companies.
Gael Duval: There are several listed on our website. There is for example a manufacturing aerospace company with 400 employees which uses Mandrake for most its intranet servers. Of this big hotel in Poland with 450 employees which uses Mandrake for its internal servers databases...
But the biggest userbase of Mandrake users are individual users because we don't have a real offer yet for enterprises (that will come in two months).
OLinux: How Mandrakes supports OpenSource/Free Software organizations around the world?
Gael Duval: Firstly we give back all our code to the community: everything is published under the General Public License. Secondly, we often sponsor some events (such as a big Gnome meeting recently), we give web server space on demand, we pay some people for working on free-software (for example, we pay a KDE developpers and a KOffice developper) etc.
OLinux: Nowadays, companies as Oracle are saying future of business is ecommerce through the Internet. Do you see it this way? is Linux Mandrake developing any products or have any plans for ecommerce? What the main bets and guidelines?
Gael Duval: Ecommerce is effectively a big thing. We already provide many tools that can be used to build some ecommerce services (Postgres, MySQL, Apache, PHP...). Furthermore, a complete solution for ecommerce has been envisaged.
OLinux: What Linux hasn't achieved yet in your opinion?
Gael Duval: Large recognition. This leads to a lack of end-users applications. It will change.
OLinux: What is the relation between Mandrake and Redhat?
Gael Duval: Do you mean official contacts or the relation between the two products?In the very beginning, Mandrake was based in RedHat work?
Gael Duval: Yes. Mandrake 5.1 was basically RH+updates+KDE+several improvements. Nowdays, RedHat uses Mandrake many new features?
RH has taken several ideas from Mandrake. The biggest one is certainly the remote update tool (which permits to update packages that have security holes etc.) but they have rewritten it. However in 6.2, they directly put one of our package ("rpmlint" which can make some checks on RPM packages). Maybe one day they'll adopt our installation procedure which is the best installation procedure recognized in the Linux world.
OLinux: How do you see this crossing relation?
Gael Duval: Great. It's not competition it's co-petition! Moreover, some of our developers have personal contacts with RH and they work together on improving RPM for example. Greets, Gael