Shuttleworth invests in ImpiLinux

Cape Town – Mark Shuttleworth, together with ImpiLinux and various other investors have announced the successful conclusion of an agreement to combine forces in the South African and SADECLinux market. The next version of Impi will be based on Ubuntu, and Shuttleworth will make a substantial investment in the new company.

The result will be a distribution of Linux, still called “ImpiLinux”, that draws on the robust and innovative underlying technologies prevalent in Ubuntu and the localised features and functionality prevalent in ImpiLinux. Impi will be a truly South African variant of the popular Ubuntu platform, which has in the past year become one of the world’s most popular desktop Linux operating systems. Ubuntu itself will continue to remain freely available on the global market, while Impi will offer additional commercial functionality not available in Ubuntu, as well as strong localisation for the South African marketplace. Impi will initially be available in English, Xhosa and Afrikaans, with the potential for translation into additional South African languages on the basis of customer demand.

Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and the Ubuntu Linux project comments: “The Impi team are justifiably proud of their pioneering reputation in the South African Linux market. This additional financial backing, additional development resources through a combined development approach with Ubuntu, and a relationship with the global company Canonical, puts Impi in a very strong position to offer a world class product for the South African desktop Linux market” he says.

Gary Fortuin, current ImpiLinux shareholder, will take-up the role of company MD in the new entity, which will be named ‘ImpiLinux (Pty) Ltd’. Gary brings years of experience in the local IT industry, having worked with both Microsoft and the ImpiLinux project.

The majority shareholding in the new venture will be held by Shuttleworth’s HBD Business Holdings, with an additional shareholding from Khuselo Investments (Pty)Ltd. Khuselo Investments will be jointly represented by Pumla Radebe, Johannesburg City Parks Chairperson, and Eddie Funde, current chairman of the SABC. In addition, 20% of the shares in the new entity have been earmarked for BEE, in the form of a trust that will disburse shares to previously disadvantaged employees over time.

Fortuin says one of the biggest differentiators will be the Impi development team’s local perspective and closeness to its customer base. “Because we are a South African organisation, communication between customers and ourselves takes place far faster than with any internationally staffed support offering and should a face to face meeting be required, this can be facilitated at far less cost and hassle,” comments Fortuin.

“Also, as a local company we can make a strong commitment to Black Economic Empowerment. In terms of the localised features the new distribution will boast, Fortuin says the development team will start by working closely with South Africa’s major broadband providers to build native support for their access devices and solutions into the operating system. “We will also be enhancing the local language support prevalent in Impi to ensure that Impi provides ICT access to South Africans in their home language, helping to preserve and strengthen South African cultural heritage while providing the country with a technology platform for the 21st century” Fortuin says.

“Other features will take the form of customising the environment to best suit the local user, through making the look and feel more visually appealing and more South African in flavour,” he says. “In addition, we will ensure that Impi can support global standard formats such as Adobe PDF, DVD discs, and MP3 music files. Impi could potentially even run Windows applications, with commercial extensions that provide for greater desktop compatibility between Windows and Linux.”

“Going forward, Impi will tailor its solution to the needs of the South African market, thereby taking the fantastic innovation made possible by Ubuntu into the enterprise space. We maintain committed to keeping local funds local, channelling all revenue into improving the ImpiLinux solution, increasing its sustainability and driving adoption of Linux and OSS in the local market. While these are bold commitments and aspirations, we believe they are more than possible,” adds Fortuin.

“This venture adds previously unseen depth to the local ICT market. The new team has the skills and the technology to create a Linux distribution that meets all the critical needs of corporates and government departments.” Shuttleworth concludes.