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An open letter to Steve Ballmer


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I really wouldn't be surprised if they mentioned something about intellectual property. Maybe


Oh dear, you bought Mandriva which hasn't signed a patent protection deal with us like Novell, Xandros and Linspire have. So you best install Windows if you don't want us to sue you.
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Linux vendors are often accused of being unprofessional and badly organised. Francois' letter was childish, poorly worded and while I know that English is not his first language and I honestly sympathise with him, just makes Mandriva look unprofessional.





Microsoft's reactions, by contrast, are cool and calm - which is what you would expect from professional business people. They don't say anything bad about Mandriva, but defend their relationship with the customer. PR 101 - it's not that hard.


Please don't get me wrong, I can understand that Francois is angry and I often overreact to things on the spur of the moment myself. But writing a badly-worded open letter that attacks Steve Ballmer (who probably didn't even know the deal was happening himself, obviously) makes Mandriva look like a bunch of kids.


Compare this:

Wow! I'm impressed, Steve! What have you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this? It's quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone. How do you call what you just did Steve? There is various names for it, I'm sure you know them.

To this:

We are seeing strong market demand for Windows on low-cost devices to help governments in the areas of education, local innovation, and jobs and opportunity... Microsoft has a strong relationship with the government in Nigeria and will continue to partner with government and industry to help meet their needs.

My advice to Mandriva: hire a professional PR person and don't let any communiqué slip past without their approval. Because any businessman reading those two paragraphs is going to side with Microsoft.

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Although I winced through the letter, had it been professionally written, it would not change the fact that MS has taken the honorable free market enterprise system and p*ssed all over it. MS, and those minions who genuflect in the presence of this kind of behavior, are the kind of people who give capitalism a bad name.


When I ran my business it would have been inconceivable to me to lurk around another vendor's business waiting to step in after the fact and lure a customer into reneging, even if only on certain parts of the deal. The fact that the agreement to purchase the hdwr may be honored does not absolve either MS nor the Nigerians in denying Mandriva the not inconsiderable market exposure they would have received.


Anyhoo....some have accused MS of bribery, but leaving those charges alone for the moment, the mere shame of skulking around a competitors' deal, waiting to snatch up sloppy seconds, is a dishonorable practice that is certainly lost on MS. Have not the Nigerians ever heard of MS? Have they not been in contact with MS sales over the past 15 years? Has MS not had the chance , in 15 years, to convince the Nigerians that their product is better? In my 20 years of running into business deals ......this smacks of underhanded behavior.


Equally to blame, are the persons in the Nigerian government responsible for this deal who apparently have a personal value system that is devoid of any standards.


Note to Mandriva......you have a loyal following in many desktop users. Be cautious of any future prospective clients that MS has ready access to.



Edited by Trio3b
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I agree that F B's letter was far from perfect professional public communication.


To be more specific:

- it should have been corrected in terms of spelling and grammar

- it comes across as a five year old: "mommy, Stevey took my pencil!", due to the phrasing/choice of words

- it fails to capture (large parts of) the audience, can easily be mistaken for sour grapes and name calling


However, there are some more points to make...


I’m sure we’re way too small for you to know me. You know, we’re one of these tiny Linux company working hard for our place on the market. We produce a Linux Distro, Mandriva Linux. The last edition, Mandriva 2008 was seen as a pretty good version and we’re proud of it.


I'm quite sure that Steve Ballmer actually knows what Mandriva is, they know who their potential competition is.


Microsoft may not have been bribing anyone; they may have called Nigerian "bluff" which may have gone further than they expected. As I get it, Microsoft was in the race for this deal, and they fell out.

As usual, if one pretends to examine Linux, one can get better prices for MS software. Nigerians may have pushed harder than MS wanted at the time, so they said: go ahead, go with Linux/Mandriva.

However, they are free to give away their product, incuding support to get it installed, etc, to Nigeria - no bribes there, and it would finally give Nigeria what they possibly wanted all along: a much lower price than what MS offered before the deal with Mandriva was done.


Some more things we can learn:

- MS will not give an inch. So any inch Linux gains is a great victory. It started in Spain in the region Extremadura and passed by Vienna, Munich and other places.

- Linux offerings will bring down MS Windows prices, all the way if necessary. THIS IS NOT GOOD FOR MS. In the short run, they can easily afford it. In the long run, they can't.

- In the Linux camp we can see this Nigerian deal as our loss at the moment, but it shows the strength of Linux - at least in the eyes of MS

- things are turned around: Mandriva cost them something, Windows was free (most likely)... if that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does

- If MS hadn't done anything, Nigeria would have used Mandriva Linux - meaning, in their opinion and after their investigation, it's a viable platform - something to point out to IT admins and CIO's all the same

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Mandriva was obviously a concern for MS. Hopefully the MDV team will learn from this experience and incorporate that into the next sales pitch to future clients. Directly addressing MS, especially in this manner did not help their cause.


Well........back to the drawing board.

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I agree with everything SoulSe said (and said very well), except the last sentence. Businessmen aren't going to side with MS, or anyone else. They're going to discount Mandriva as serious vendor, move on to the next vendor, and forget this whole thing ever happened.

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Hi Reiver.


Seems like our French friend can't do anything right to suit you. :D :D :D


This despite the fact that his open letter might be the very reason the Microsoft event became known to the world at large and so caught out Microsofts antics. Maybe shaming the Nigerian Government to do something about it !!!.


Cheers. John.

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