Mandriva Eying Desktop Linux in Lycoris Buy

Linux vendor Mandriva today said it would buy North American Linux distributor Lycoris in a deal that could open up new markets to a top Linux reseller, especially in the home personal computer space.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. It was the second acquisition this year for France-based Mandriva, which had previously been known as Mandrakesoft. In February, Mandriva bought Brazil-based Conectiva for US$2.3 million.

Mandriva said Lycoris’ founder and CEO, Joseph Cheek, would stay with the company and help develop “a new and advanced Linux desktop product.”

Desktop Linux

Five-year-old Lycoris is known for its easy-to-use desktop version of Linux, called Desktop/LX. The software has won several awards for its ease-of-use, its intuitive graphical interface and the way it uses the Iris Software Gallery technology to enable applications to be added to a machine.

Lycoris has also gained early traction in providing Linux software customized for the Tablet PC and hand-held devices. Mandriva said the firm has a paying user base of around 20,000 with the user base of its free downloadable software estimated to be “several hundreds of thousands.”

Mandriva said the plan is now for the companies to work together on a single platform that will combine the Mandriva Discovery product and Lycoris Desktop/LX. The company hopes to have a new version of the Discovery software available this fall.

A standout product that has mass appeal is what Mandriva needs in order to remain a viable, global player. While its acquisition of Conectiva gave it some key technological assets and an important foothold in South America, Robert Francis Group senior business analyst Stacy Quandt said the firm needs a product to set it apart from other Linux vendors.

Solidifying Its Position

“In order to grow, Mandriva needs to focus on more than just brand equity. It needs to offer solutions that target large audiences and commercial customers,” she told LinuxInsider. “The success of Mandriva will be measured by its ability to deliver a wide range of solutions.”

Mandriva has ranked among the top five worldwide Linux vendors, but the arrival of massive global players in the space stands to erode its market share over time.

A standout consumer product might help the company solidify its positions, since no single vendor has been able to capture the market of delivering to consumers and small businesses the ease-of-use of Windows and the open-source advantage of Linux in a single platform.

For Mandriva, the acquisition is the latest effort to bring itself back from the brink of extinction. The company emerged from bankruptcy just over a year ago after working out a lengthy, nine-year plan to repay about $5 million it owed creditors.

The firm’s name change was also part of the makeover and was also important for helping to limit the firm’s legal liability. When known as Mandrakesoft, it had been charged with trademark infringement by the Hearst Corp., the publishing and syndication giant that owns the rights to the “Mandrake the Magician” comic strip.

Many Competitors

For its part, Lycoris has actively been seeking an acquisition or merger since late last year, when efforts to attract direct investment were not successful.

In vying for the desktop market, Mandriva will have many competitors, including some formidably well-heeled ones. Novell last year acquired SuSE Linux and at the same time said that IBM would back it with $50 million in capital. Part of the Novell push is to build Linux systems that link enterprise systems to desktops, the company has said.

1 Comment

  • I have tried both Mandrake and Lycoris in the past. Mandrake was OK but had issues with my hardware at the time. Lycoris worked well and had an extremely nice desktop, but I balked at paying additional money for packaged software that was essentially prettied up free software.
    If Mandriva can package a stable base with good hardware support, the Lycoris desktop and a beefed up Iris software gallery they could have a good retail product in its hands.
    Since initially trying both distros, among others, I have settled on Simply MEPIS for my desktop needs. It is available free or for a modest cost for CD, is not some cut-down version of a flagship product, is Debian stable, and doesn’t require me to join some "club."

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