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Fired Mandriva founder fires back


March 16, 2006 has not been a good day for Mandriva or its user community. After being fired by Mandriva, co-founder Gael Duval announced in an interview with NewsForge that he was going to sue his old firm for “abusive layoff.”

In Duval’s latest blog, Duval, a non-native English speaker, confirmed that “I’m just going to sue Mandriva for abusive lay-off, since I doubt that the real reason was economical for me. I have the very bad feeling that my initial project has been wasted and this sentiment is reinforced since I have alerted my president twice in 2005 about the bad trend in the management and business.”

Mandriva also confirmed that Duval had been let go as part of its cost reduction plan.

The French-based Linux distributor made this move, as well as laying off other employees, because of recent poor financial results.

In his blog, Duval wrote, “Fired. Yes. Simply fired, for economical reasons, along with a few other ones. More than 7 years after I created Mandrake-Linux and then Mandrakesoft, the current boss of Mandriva “thanks me” and I’m leaving, sad, with my two-month salary indemnity standard package. It’s difficult to accept that back in 1998 I created my job and the one of many other people, and that recently, on a February afternoon, Mandriva’s CEO called to tell me that I was leaving.”

The move caught Duval by surprise, although he admitted, “I should have expected to be fired since my recent switch of activity at Mandriva certainly fragilized (sic) [marginalized] my position, so I could be thanked at first opportunity.”

He believes he was fired because “my relationship with the current CEO (and soon President of the Board [Francois Bancilhon]) which hasn’t been excellent, has been a factor.”

Some members of the Mandriva community see Duval’s firing as striking at the heart of the Mandriva Club, a group of users which have supported the company with subscriptions to the distribution over the years. One long-time member sadly remarked, “So with Gael gone. We can conclude that this mission [community support] has been abandoned as unnecessary. What next? Probably further commercialization. Shareholders usually don’t need and don’t care about community and other non-profit things.”

Duval would agree.

“I’ve always supported the idea that Mandriva’s userbase was the heaviest pillar on which Mandriva could rely, and that the best way to do some business was certainly to extend this userbase at the max and then to sell value-added services to a small portion of it. I’ve always been defending this position at Mandriva, which implied the idea to release better quality products and to value our image inside the IT and Open Source community, because the community recommends, or not, Linux products. This approach gained its better results when I wrote myself the webpage contents which encouraged people to subscribe the Mandriva Club: this has generated the biggest cash-flow ever. But it wasn’t the main policy at Mandriva. And the fact that the ‘community department’ has just been canceled is, in my opinion, very meaningful about the current policy.”

So where is Mandriva going?

Duval’s “feeling is that they are focusing more and more on the corporate market. Mandriva is more and more looking like a standard company, which is trying to sell services to fortune 500 companies, abandoning its initial roots. But at the same time, it’s keeping on released geeks products. This sounds like a fuzzy strategy.”

As for Duval, he plans to work more on Ulteo, which is described as “new concept of easy-to-use open-source operating system which should change the way people use computers.”

A version of this story first appeared in Linux-Watch.

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