Being a commercial Linux distribution editor is tough.
There are a few commercial Linux distribution editors in the world: Red Hat, Novell/Suse, Turbolinux, Mandriva, Ubuntu/Canonical, Linspire, Xandros, Red Flag, CS2C and Sun Wah to name the key ones.
Yes, yes, I do put Ubuntu/Canonical in the list (what a blasphemy) and will elaborate in a further post on why I do so. Of course, I do not put Debian in there, which is a true community based non commercial distribution.
To my knowledge, the only companies in that list which actually publish their financial numbers are Red Hat, Turbolinux and Mandriva.
- Red Hat is publicly traded on the Nasdaq in New York
- Turbolinux is publicly traded on the Hercules market in Tokyo
- Mandriva is publicly traded on the Euronext Marché Libre in Paris.
So for those three, we know. For the others, we guess or we accept to believe what they say (if they say something).One could make the point that Novell/Suse is also listed, but their activity in the Linux/Open Source space is within a division of a much larger company. So, they are free to define what goes in there and what does not and I will remain skeptical of their actual numbers.
Further to my knowledge, the only company making money is Red Hat.
Of course, it is possible that Novell/Suse will become profitable thanks to the bounty of $320M provided by Microsoft, but it is my conjecture, and the grapevine tells me, that without this they are not profitable.
Both Turbolinux and Mandriva have shown losses in their last financial reporting. They both cover a large part of their expenses with their revenue, but not enough to be profitable.
I understand that all the others are actually losing money. I will be happy to be proved wrong by the publication of audited results.
- As far as I know, the three Chinese players keep their cards close to their chest, but are losing money.
- The last time I had information about Linspire, it was bleeding cash.
- Not sure for Xandros, but I would guess they are losing money (unless Andy tells me differently).
- And there again, in the absence of published results and based on my understanding, I would conjecture that Ubuntu/Canonical is the winner in terms of losses, since it has virtually no revenue and hefty expenses.
Where does this leave us: everybody is losing cash, so it’s a difficult business and no one, besides Red Hat, can claim to have the solution and the ideal business model.