Mandriva S.A., the French company behind Mandriva, the distribution that long time Linux users will remember as Mandrake, died this week at the age of sixteen. The announcement came in the form of a notice posted by the company earlier this week. The cause of death was financial hemorrhaging.
The distro began life as Mandrake, but was forced to change its name due to a trademark dispute with the Hearst newspaper chain, which owned the rights to the “Mandrake the Magician” comic strip. Mandriva was a combination of the original name and Conectiva, a Brazilian distro the company purchased for $2.3 million in 2005.
During the early 2000s, the distro became popular as one of the first easy-to-use Linux distributions. Not only was it one of the first distros to feature ways to configure nearly all aspects of the operating system using graphical tools, it was also one of the first to introduce a graphical installer. The installer included an easy to use partitioning tool, making installing Linux much easier than it had been.
The original business model was to sell the distro in shrink-wrapped boxed sets and then offer a subscription service, called Mandrake Club, for technical support and expanded access to the distro’s application repository. At first the distro had some success with this model, as broadband Internet was not yet widely available and downloading Linux over a dial-up connection was a daunting task. The Power Pack Edition of Mandrake was widely available in electronics stores of the day and sold for around $70.
However, the company ran into financial trouble early on and was forced to file for the French equivalent of Chapter 11 bankrupcy in 2003, from which it successfully emerged in the spring of 2004. After that, the company went on a buying spree, picking up both Conectiva and Lycoris in 2005. In recent years, however, the distro had again fallen on hard times and had struggled for survival.
In May, 2010, the company reported that it was broke and would soon shutter its doors, but was rescued for a while by a deal with Russian investors. During this period, the company was forced to layoff much of it’s development staff, some of whom created the Mageia distro, based on Mandriva’s code.
David Hodgins, a deputy leader of Mageia’s QA team, who also serves on the distro’s Community Council and is a member of the board, shared his feelings about Mandriva’s closing with FOSS Force: “I think it’s sad, but I’m not surprised by it, as the business model never made sense to me. I’m mostly sorry for the employees who have now lost their jobs. Prior to Mageia getting started, I used Mandrake, and then Mandriva, and wish all of the employees well.”
Mandriva had another brush with bankruptcy in 2012, which it avoided after it named COO Jean-Manuel Croset, who had joined the firm in 2011, as CEO. Along with its financial woes, the company had also seen the popularity of its desktop distro wane in recent years, due to the rise of a plethora of even easier to use distros such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and PCLinuxOS.
Mandriva is survived by Mageia, OpenMandriva and the aforementioned PCLinuxOS, which also started life as a Mandrake clone, and by many Linux users who will remember it fondly.
Editor’s note: This article was updated on Friday, May 29, 2015 at approximately 8:00 P.M. EST to include statement from Dave Hodgins.
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