Guitars, Paramedics, Linux, and Me

October 31, 2007

An Open Letter from François of Mandriva

Filed under: Linux — S. Kindley @ 11:57 am
Tags: ,

On October 30, 2007 Mandriva announced that the Nigerian government selected the Intel powered Classmate PC loaded with Mandriva Linux for a pilot program within their educational system.

Today there is a blog post by Mandriva CEO François Bancilhon indicating that while Nigeria bought the computers loaded with a customized Mandriva distribution it will wipe and install Windows. The blog post is titled An open letter to Steve Ballmer.

I have published my article on this subject under Linux, FOSS, Open Source, and Living Linux because I think this illustrates what F/OSS companies sometimes deal with in the marketplace.

However, I must note that there is a huge problem with Mr. Bancilhon’s post. It is chock full of emotion but leaves out details and facts supporting the thinly veiled claim of impropriety.

Read on for a full quote…


An open letter to Steve Ballmer
Posted in English, Mandriva at 10:51 pm by François Bancilhon

Dear Steve,

Hi, this is François, from Mandriva.

I’m sure we are way too small for you to have heard of us. You know, we are one of these Linux company who is working hard to make its place in the market. We publish a Linux Distro, called Mandriva Linux. Mandriva Linux 2008, our last edition, has a pretty good review and we’re proud of it. You should try it, I’m sure you’d like it. We also happen to be one of the Linux companies that did not sign an agreement with your company (nobody’s perfect).

We recently closed a deal with the Nigerian Government. Maybe you heard about it, Steve. They were looking for an affordable hardware+software solution for their schools. The initial batch was 17,000 machines. We had a good deal to respond to their need: the Classmate PC from Intel, with a customized Mandriva Linux solution. We presented the solution to the local government, they liked the machine, they liked our system, they liked what we offered them, especially the fact that it was open, and that we could customize it for their country and so on.

Then, your people get in the game and the deal got more competitive. I would not say it got dirty, but someone could have said that. Your team fought and fought again the deal, but still the customer was happy with the CMPC and Mandriva.

We actually closed the deal, we took the order, we qualified the software, we got the machine shipped. To conclude, we did our job. And, the machine are being delivered right now.

Now, we hear a different story from the customer : “we shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward.”

Wow! I’m impressed, Steve! What have you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this? It’s quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone. How do you call what you just did Steve? There is various names for it, I’m sure you know them.

Of course, I will keep fighting this one and the next one, and the next one. You have the money, the power, and maybe we have a different sense of ethics you and I, but I still believe that hard work, good technology and ethics can win too.



PS: a message to our friends in Nigeria: it’s still time to do the right thing and make the right choice, you will get lots of support for it and excellent services!

I think it is important to note that Mandriva did close the deal, deliver the sold product, and benefit from their business skills. So far there are no facts that indicate any wrongdoing on the part of Microsoft. Hopefully facts will emerge to shed some light on the details behind Nigeria’s decision to wipe Mandrake from the PC’s they purchased. Until then we can only speculate. And that doesn’t do Linux advocates any good.

From a business perspective Mr. Bancilhon’s post could actually hurt Mandriva in the long run. While it is obvious to us Linux folk that his emotion was directed toward Ballmer and Microsoft it could be interpreted as a negative comment about his customer! I would think a prudent businessman would be contacting his customer personally to find out why Mandriva was being replaced by Windows and try to attack the problem.

I truely believe that Mr. Bancilhon is on to something here. I just don’t think he is dealing with it in the best manner for Mandriva, Linux, or the Nigerian educational system.


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