Posted in Uncategorized at 2:45 pm by François Bancilhon

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.


  1. devnet said,

    April 3, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    You left out rPath Linux…and they’re too young of a startup to find out if they’re losing or making money. The bottom line is that they’ve secured tons of capital funding and they just partnered with Amazon.com…so perhaps they might be profitable? Only time will tell.

  2. John Doe said,

    April 3, 2007 at 5:47 pm

    Come on, did you really discover how RPATH will make any money … there is not yet something that comes close tro a business plan ;-)

  3. John Doe said,

    April 3, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Red Hat is actually traded on the New York Stock Exchange, not the NASDAQ.

  4. Nikoolinux said,

    April 3, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    Redhat is actually on the NASDAQ.


    Concerning the post itself, I truly believe that given the thin margins such a business has, it may definitely imply well thought and well defined objectives and partnerships.

    I surely understand the economic aim that is behind spreading the company in South America or Africa, but I still believe this kind of growing perspectives are being used to early and at a quite unfavorable moment (i.e when Mandriva star isn’t shining that much in the Linux world).

    Too early because :

    - the product good quality is just arising with Mandriva 2007, and 2007.1 editions,
    - Mandriva has now to rebuild its good reputation and to improve it in order be sure that it will have customers when it wants to spread around the world.
    - Real and easier opportunities would have been to work with hardware manufacturer in order to get linux support for let say one brand of Webcam, or a fully supported laptop with good configurations (not like those from the HP partnership…).

    Well, maybe I’m all wrong and all my suggestions are just economically impossible to reach, or simply wrong ideas.

  5. Mandriva Adict said,

    April 3, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    Mozilla is making a lot of money with just a little thing : the search bar…

    An entire Desktop could contain a LOT of things like that.

    I’m sure if you open a topic into forums, you will have a some ideas, to make Mandriva profitable (non free goodies (themes, screensavers…) commercial games already packaged for Mandriva, partnership with online stores.

    I hope Mandriva will be soon an example of a company winning money with Linux.

  6. Moulinneuf said,

    April 4, 2007 at 1:08 am

    “Being a commercial Linux distribution editor is tough.”

    Being the CEO of any commercial entity means that you know your entire market properly , that you know your own strength , that you know who your allies ( You clearly failed that one miserably ) , your opponent ( Another one you failed so far ) , your capacity ( result speak for itself ). That you know perfectly your own company and its people. ( You don’t)

    You either are cut to be a CEO or your not , in your case your not.

    “There are a few commercial Linux distribution editors in the world:”

    Wishful thinking on your part :




    “So for those three, we know”

    You don’t know Mandriva and your going to claim to know Turbolinux and Red Hat , please …

    “Further to my knowledge”

    Witch is to say , not much … You might need a better Information team …

    “Mandriva have shown losses in their last financial reporting”

    Whose fault is that , Wait its 300% your fault , Your Mandriva PDG/CEO and Chairman last I looked , now I am sure you wont fix the problem and probably will blame the monkey from planet triton billions light years aways … as you always do.

    Sorry , the buck and blame start and finish at your own feet …

    People expect more from Mandriva , Why ? Because Mandriva is a #1 GNU/Linux Free Software Distribution , It proved it in the past.

    Mandriva destiny is to be #1 in everything , not #8 , not good enough.


    BTW Mandriva Users and Partners don’t care about your knowledge of other company Financial status on there own respective market .

    They want you to increase sale of Mandriva Product , Mandriva Services , Mandriva computers Servers , Desktop , Workstation , Laptop , Digital music server , Media center , etc … and in doing so increase Mandriva Market share and mindshare.and there profit and bottom line.

    The GNU/Linux market gave the message : STOP diverting fund in commercial products nobody buys , Invest in Mandriva users.

  7. Adelton said,

    April 4, 2007 at 10:50 am


    no, sorry, Red Hat moved from NASDAQ (symbol RHAT) to NYSE (symbol RHT) on December 12, 2006: http://www.nyse.com/about/listed/rht.html

    The information on boursorama.com, listing Red Hat’s Place de cotation as NASDAQ Stock Market (Etats-Unis), is wrong.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    April 4, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    Mandriva GNU/Linux is fine, but it’s an issue of perception only, as well as exclusionary and secret contracts with the OEMs. Prebundling by Dell, for example, which is likely to be followed by H-P, could make a lot of difference. They will also advertise. The change has begun with the release of a very poor product from Microsoft.

  9. JD said,

    April 6, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    The point is that there are too many incompatible flavours of GNU/Linux distributions for all of them to be profitable…

    The real competitor is and should stay Microsoft. Too many incompatible Linux distributions is simply bad for users, bad for enterprises and bad for consumers.

    Ubuntu is the distribution “a la mode” ?
    fine, go and use them as the base for the next Mandriva release !

    All you have to do is to port Mandriva tools on ubuntu, to change their art theme and rebuild their packages.

    It would be less expensive, more compatible and well seen by the community.

  10. Moulinneuf said,

    April 7, 2007 at 9:43 am

    @ JD

    No the point is that your clueless.

    First Mandriva is bigger then Ubuntu , but its runned into the ground by its management.

    Second , that’s a Microsoft myth and lie that GNU/Linux distribution are incompatible with themself , Take Debian Source and you can use it on Mandriva , take Mandriva source and you can use it on Slackware , Take Slackware source and you can use it on Gentoo , ETC …

    Third since when is multiple offer is not good for a market ? Do you drive the same car as your neighboor ? Do you use the same stove ? Do you have the same house ? etc …The answer is usally NO. GNU/Linux is what its built on.

    The real Mandriva competitor is actually Mandriva itself. People are staying on older version because it work better.

    Fourth if you want to use Ubuntu use Ubuntu … Last I looked all the Debian based commercial are doing that ( Linspire , Mepis , Etc … ) , Instead of offering something diferent and better Like Mandriva used to do.

    If its so inexpensive to run a debian based company why is it that so many fail ? Debian is not even LFS or LSB certified , Unlike Mandriva , meaning they are the one breaking the standards. Don’t give me the bulshit that they do , or I will point you to the Ubuntu and Debian mailing list over placing things in different places.

    I got to Agree with one thing the Ubuntu community Love François Bancilhon PÉTAIN
    , he surrender to them all the time , even more so on its own territory. The Ubuntu community would also love to see Mandriva switch to be Ubuntu base. The only one who wont agree I guess are the Mandriva community. But you are right to suggest it to François Bancilhon PÉTAIN.

  11. Steve Adams said,

    April 29, 2007 at 1:31 am

    Open Source is Awesome. With that said, shooting for all software to become open-source is as nieve as my wife’s sister last night, enough said. Basically these companies are going to continue to show loss as long as they completely release thier source code. Look at Microsoft they don’t let out thier source code and the operating system is the most used OS out there. If these companies want to make money and stick to linux’s tradition of open source then what they need to do is Create a GUI ( Not copy but Create ) and dont release the source on it. Release the source on the filesystem the notepad.exe’s and the defrager but keep the heart and soul a secret. We want to create our own OS we have the original Linux or One man\women programmers out there that will remain completely open source. I would like to see this happen because until it does Linux will never be in the same League as Windows. These companies to innovate this requires creative programmers working solely on this project , this requires money. blah, blah, blah Again basically These companies need to have secrets so maybe they could compete with microsoft

Leave a Comment

To prove that you're not a bot, enter this code
Anti-Spam Image

E-mail It