Interview With Mandriva CEO, François Bancilhon

Linux Journal recently caught up with Mandriva CEO, François Bancilhon, to find out more about a recently announced partnership between Mandriva of France and Turbolinux of Japan.

In mid-January of 2008, the French Linux distribution maker Mandriva and its Japanese counterpart, Turbolinux, announced a partnership to create a common base Linux system, as well as a joint development lab, logically dubbed "Manbo-Labs".

As each each player in the distribution game seeks to offer a compelling product that sets itself apart in a competitive, innovation-packed marketplace, we are curious to know how the players themselves view their strategies. Linux Journal Products Editor, James Gray, recently caught up with Mandriva CEO, François Bancilhon, to find out his take on the new partnership.

Linux Journal: Congratulations on the new partnership between Mandriva and Turbolinux. As you said in your news release, you plan to unify the two distributions, using a common base system, as well as create a joint development effort, called Manbo-Labs. We are curious to know more. Both Mandriva and Turbolinux are already excellent distributions. How will they be better together?

François Bancilhon: First of all, let me clarify that we are initially only unifying the core components of the distribution, roughly 100 RPMs. So there will still be 2 different distros : Mandriva Linux and Turbolinux. But because they have the same base components, they will run on the same hardware hardware platforms and they will support the same ISVs. This is good for customers: a stronger, sounder distribution, more hardware and software compatibility; this is good for ISVs and IHVs: they need only one certification for the 2 distros.

LJ: When will the first joint distribution be released?

Bancilhon: Each company is free of its own release schedule, the core components will be released at the end of Q1 and Mandriva 2008 Spring will be based on this core. I believe Turbolinux will follow very shortly with a new release.

LJ: How do you expect your product lines and strategies to change?

Bancilhon: Because we mutualize our R&D effort, we will both be able to invest more into engineering, so you can expect better distros in terms of reliability and features.

LJ: In today's competitive environment, how will the new Mandriva and Turbolinux product and services stack up against other Linux distributions?

Bancilhon: Thanks to the lab, both companies invest more in their products, have better products and are more competitive. For Mandriva, we keep our current values and differentiations: open, simple and innovative.

LJ: How many developers will be devoted to Manbo-Labs?

Bancilhon: You can use the present tense: today more than 10 developers are working on the project. They are in Brazil, in Japan, in France, and in Norway, but the main focal point in Paris.

LJ: Recently Stephen Shankland of CNET dismissed the idea of cooperations such as yours, saying they "haven't amounted to much." He cited failures such as UnitedLinux, Linux Core Consortium (LCC) and the Debian Common Core Alliance (DCCA). What is your response to this?

Bancilhon: This is a valid complaint.

United Linux essentially failed because two reasons:

  1. There was a fight between the members (SCO being part of the consortium!).
  2. It was not a cooperation; it was the idea of putting SUSE in charge of doing all the work, the other members licensing the SUSE product. This turned out to be a traumatic experience for everyone.

LCC failed because the work never happened: we did the communication and marketing, but engineering work never happened. The fact of trying to get Debian and RPM distros working together was just too ambitious as an initial goal.

I actually do not know what happened to DCCA, maybe Ubuntu managed to kill it somehow, because they want to own that space.

Anyway, it is true that these cooperations have not been successful up to now, which is why we decided to change two things:

  1. Let's be more modest, not build a full distro, but just the core components.
  2. Let's make it work first, then let's announce it. This is why we signed the deal in the Fall of 2007, the team was assembled and started working immediately and has already delivered some initial version, and we know that in April it will have produced its first version and a commercial product will be based on it.

LJ: Mandrakesoft (of France) and Conectiva Linux (of Brazil) merged together several years ago. How do you think this fusion of companies changed your business?

Bancilhon: In terms of technologies, we built a new product, Mandriva Linux, which included the best from Mandrakesoft and the best from Conectiva. In terms of market reach, we are now very present in South America, and we have major OEM deals in Brazil and Argentina. We are working with our Brazilian team to start shipping our flagship Pulse product in that market. Let me add that consolidation is a natural trend in a fairly new market such as Linux, so we just took the initiative to do something that was bound to happen and we used our first-mover advantage.

LJ: Do you plan to add more members to Manbo-Labs?

Bancilhon: Absolutely, now that we have proved that it works, we would like to invite other distro editors to join, enrich what we do and benefit from it.

LJ: Thank you for speaking with Linux Journal!

Bancilhon: Thanks for giving us the opportunity!

Load Disqus comments