MANDRIVA'S CEO in the news, Francois Bancilhon has spoken to The INQUIRER about his blog entry yesterday that caused a stir by implicitly suggesting Microsoft had used borderline dirty tactics to encourage the Nigerian government to switch a large number of systems from Linux to Windows.
In an “open letter to Steve Ballmer”, Bancilhon writes: “your people got in the game and the deal got more competitive. I would not say it got dirty, but someone could have said that. Your team fought and fought again the deal, but still the customer was happy with Mandriva. We actually closed the deal, we took the order, we qualified the software, we got the machine shipped. To conclude, we did our job. And, the machines are being delivered right now. Now, we hear a different story from the customer : ‘we shall pay for the Mandriva Software as agreed, but we shall replace it by Windows afterward'. 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.”
In a phone call today, Bancilhon added a bit more detail:
“We’d been working on the deal for three to six months and things were going well,” he told us. “We came up with initial pricing and at some point Microsoft showed up with a different price so we had to change the price. This is normal competition but still the customer was interested in what we were doing. The negotiations went on and on and at some point we were told we had won the deal. It was complex: the manufacturing was in Taiwan, our developers were in Brazil, Intel is in Santa Clara, the customer was in Nigeria and we were in France. Then I had an interview with a journalist and the journalist called me back and said ‘I’ve just talked to the people in Nigeria and they tell me they will pay for Mandriva and then throw it away and replace it with Windows'. We’ve been in many competitive situations but this was the first time it was obvious…”
What was obvious? Here Bancilhon is cagey:
“Something must have happened in between. The thing is, this was 17,000 machines and this was only the first phase of a larger order in the area of 100,000 machines. Microsoft has so much money and power that they can never, never let a deal like this happen.”
Will this turn legal? Bancilhon is cagey again:
“We’re just collecting the facts to see what can happen. This deal is not over until the fat lady sings. I’m still trying to get it through. In many cases we’re brought in to lower the price but this was not the case here.” µ
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