Mandriva's Future Rosy or Rose Colored?
It was over six weeks ago that rumors, later confirmed as true, circulated stating that Mandriva's financial situation was so dire that it was considering buy-out offers to try to avoid having to close its doors. This news struck many Mandriva users and developers hard and all held their breath waiting for further news and the release of Mandriva Spring 2010.1. Although the final release of 2010.1 is still absent, news that Mandriva S.A. might be saved was met with sighs of relief and a healthy dose of skepticism.
News broke June 22 on the French technology Website, www.lemagit.fr, that Mandriva would neither have to be sold or closed due to the appearance of some private investors. Mandriva CEO Arnaud Laprévote said that "the community and users no longer need to be concerned." However, some still are.
Laprévote neither named these new investors nor elaborated on any specific business strategies. He did say they were looking for a new business model, and this is what worries some observers. Mandriva has had several financial crises in the past decade and the community keeps hoping each is the last. Bankruptcy protection gave Mandriva some breathing room in 2003 and 2004. Creating a pay-to-join Mandriva Club brought in some slight revenue. Earlier, a donation campaign was waged in attempts to save the ailing company. In 2008 the company had to release several telecommuting contributors.
Mandriva has been providing enterprise and educational systems and support as well as selling boxed sets and USB drives of its desktop system, but they've always had difficulty competing with other Linux companies such as Red Hat and Novell in terms of revenue and the ability to land long-term contracts. Experts question Mandriva's ability to construct a profitable business model and users hope a freely available version will continue to be a part of the business model. Speculation on Mandriva forums has them abandoning the PowerPack and splitting their offerings into enterprise and community versions, much like Redhat and Fedora or Novell and openSUSE.
Even if Mandriva's future was uncertain, community members are questioning the commitment of Mandriva on the desktop since development has stopped on the latest version that was due for release June 3. Wiki feature pages have not been updated since May 15 and the expected release date for 2010.1 (June 2) was removed from the planning calendar when release candidate 2 was announced. It is still blank at this time. Even the official Mandriva blog remains silent. Developers are complaining of absent paychecks and Nicolas Lucreil and Pascal Terjan have already left the building.
Mandriva 2010, released last fall, was one of the best releases Mandriva had achieved in some time and many users were looking forward to the updates and improvements to come in 2010.1. Some find little comfort from Laprévote's words during this time while Mandriva is "reinventing itself." Others are guardedly hopeful. Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months, the storm is far from over for current Mandriva customers and users.
UPDATE: Anne Nicolas announced that the new Mandriva 2010 Spring ISOs should be released July 5. A planning wiki update soon followed.
Susan Linton is a Linux writer and the owner of tuxmachines.org.