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Novell Linux Business Software

Novell Ponders "Open-Source Apps Store" 183

Posted by timothy
from the return-of-click-n-run dept.
Barence writes "Novell plans to bring the wealth of open-source software to everyday users through an 'open-source apps store.' 'I would compare what's happening on netbooks with what's happening to the smartphone,' Holger Dyroff, vice president of business development at Novell told PC Pro. 'There's a core experience, but then the ability to customise that experience. On the user end, all they'll see is an open-source applications store with one-click downloads of new software. Unlike the other stores though, they won't have to pay for any of those applications, which will be very attractive.'"
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Novell Ponders "Open-Source Apps Store"

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  • by Hyppy (74366) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#28265115)
    yum install aptitude.

    Yeah, that's basically all I can see this being. Perhaps it will have a nice web portal with reviews, in-depth descriptions, and decent screenshots?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:06AM (#28265121)

    They added a feature to donate money to open source projects. Or even allowed projects to sell their own open-source software in the store. Or sell for cost add-ons to the open source software. Yes, open source software could very well be downloaded elsewhere for free, but people might well pay for the convenience of getting it one place.

  • by trybywrench (584843) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:11AM (#28265187)
    Why not let authors of the software charge just like the smart phone apps? Sounds like a revenue source for Novell and a revenue source for software writers. There can be a mix of free and not-free software in the "store" just like Apple's.

    To answer my own question it sounds like Novell wants to leverage the "app store" hype and just put a front end on apt.
  • by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:16AM (#28265231) Journal
    Friendlier. Like Debian/Ubuntu's gnome-app-install.
  • Re:Apt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:28AM (#28265429) Homepage

    Well, there are a bunch of features mobile app stores have that repositories do not. For instance, the ability to post comments, or to rate programs.

    The biggest difference though is in philosophy. Even if you assume a completely authoritarian app store like the iPhones, the apps you download from it are basically what the developers created. You are getting it "as the creator intended". And if you are comparing against Android rather than the iPhone, then the app store is very open, you can upload almost whatever you want within some basic limitations, like, you can't upload an app that violates some other services terms-of-service. Also, an app store is always fresh, because the latency from developers finishing QA on their binary and it being available to download is seconds, at least for Android.

    In contrast, Linux distro repositories have a different philosophy:

    • They reserve the right not only to reject your software for any reason, but also to modify it via patches as well. The user is not informed that any patching has taken place. Sometimes this patching improves the software, but sometimes it totally breaks it. There are many examples of this (eg openssl).

      This silent tampering is extensive and distributors are loathe to give it up. When Mozilla decided they didn't want the Firefox brand tarnished by extensive Debian patches, Debian decided they'd rather rename the product "Iceweasel" than give up this control.

    • Distros are not fresh. Typically the software that was around at the time of release is frozen and updates from upstream are not made available, unless they are security updates. Even then some distros prefer to "backport" security fixes, rather than simply follow upstream versioning. This results in a steady stream of useless bug reports to upstream for problems that were long since fixed. Once again, the developers are not in control of their own software.

    If Novell are actually interested in the app store approach, they're going to have to convince the suse developers to give up that level of control and make automated import of upstream binaries the norm. No more "packagers" for applications - that role will have to be obsoleted. And then they'll have to convince upstream developers to actually submit those binaries.

    I am doubtful that this will happen. Some years ago I promoted a more normal approach to app distribution on Linux (not an app store, but true web-based distribution). I was flatly told by several distribution employees that they weren't interested in losing control of the total software experience like that, and there would be no change in policy whilst they were around. So I gave up. These days I focus on Android - it's actually got a sane design and software distribution mechanism. Many of the things I wanted to see in Linux are in Android. Novell should be looking at how they can get in on that ..... unless they still think Linux is a viable mass-market desktop?

  • by javacowboy (222023) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:29AM (#28265455)

    I just filed a patent for the idea of porting apt-get to Windows and OS X. Now I'll be rich! RICH! :D

    BTW, I'm only kidding.

    All kidding aside, I think this would be a good idea. This would remove the hassle of finding, installing, and maintaining open source software for Windows and Mac users. As a Mac user that has a lot of open source software installed (Firefox, OpenOffice, GIMP, Adium, etc), I find that MacPorts is lacking in functionality. I spend too much time maintaining these software installations that could otherwise easily be done with a few clicks. This is something that I miss from my OpenSolaris box, which is my second computer.

  • 1 Click Installer (Score:2, Interesting)

    by think_nix (1467471) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:31AM (#28265483)

    I think what they are eventually getting is also implementing openSUSE so called 1 click installer for applications. Although a good idea for newer users I find it to be a PITA. 1 click is like a little repository within itself which then adds repos and missing packages if needed.

    With 1 click downloads and 1 click installers I seriously wonder if this "software store" will work with other distributions other then their own openSUSE/SLED. Also on another note what kind of Software with what license models will be put in the store ? I for one, know I dont want 1 click everything with (for e.g. mono, imho novell really likes to push this on people) some screwy licensed software being eventually installed without being asked and or notified about it.

  • Re:Apt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tubal-Cain (1289912) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:35AM (#28265525) Journal
    Wow. That hadn't occured to me. Novel makes an app store for Windwows (and Mac), exposing the users to one of the best features of Linux and BSD (with more apps available than Google Updater). Get all these users hooked on the convenience of having a single auto-update program instead of several, and then let them know that all of these apps they have adapted to are availiable on another, operating system that doesn't cost any money. They won't need to pay for Windows ME 3.0, when it comes out.
  • by WinterSolstice (223271) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:41AM (#28265581)

    Yes - I think all of us thought of Synaptic, the Ports collection, etc.

    Why is Novell building yet another stupid frontend for yum/apt-get/etc?
    Does the world need this?

    On a similar vein - does the linux community really need this? I mean, end-users using linux is nice and all (if that's what they want), but I just find that the more "user-friendly" they make these desktop distros, the harder it is to fix them when they break.

    Take Ubuntu for example - when it works, that's cool. When something breaks, it breaks ugly and you very quickly destroy the illusion of user-friendliness. Suspend/hibernate, for example. Works great for lots of folks, but when it doesn't... you're building custom hibernate scripts, installing kernel mods like Tux on Ice, etc.

    I just think that this is not a smart move from Novell's part. It will give the appearance of yet another bullet-proof polished tool that will clutter up the menu while giving the appearance of user-friendliness without the actual user-friendliness.

  • by Qubit (100461) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @10:48AM (#28265679) Homepage Journal

    They added a feature to donate money to open source projects. Or even allowed projects to sell their own open-source software in the store. Or sell for cost add-ons to the open source software. Yes, open source software could very well be downloaded elsewhere for free, but people might well pay for the convenience of getting it one place.

    But who does (or should) the money go to?

    • The guy who packaged My-Shiny-FOSS-App for the Novell store?
    • The guy who put the new GUI front-end on the program?
    • The guy who's been maintaining the library underneath it all?
    • The guys who wrote the original version of the library when they were hopped up on RedBull one night in College and then subsequently forgot about it and lost their sf.net password so they abandoned the project?
    • Cowboy Neal?

    Sometimes funding FOSS development is relatively easy -- you've got one program that you use all the time, it's written by a single guy (or group of guys), and they've all agreed to have money go to a single organization that has nonprofit status, making it easy to just cut them a check.

    For all the rest of the projects, funding development is not so easy.

    Lots of projects say things like "Yeah... take a look at the commit logs and decide who you want to fund. Most developers have an Amazon wishlist or a hardware wishlist." While I understand their situation, it would be a lot easier for me if I could just send money to some organization or person. Otherwise I agonize over who to send what to. That's the simple truth.

    Speaking of funding FOSS projects, I'm going to put in a shameless plug for my article Free Software starts in your pocket [wordpress.com]. I'm kind of "beta testing" it right now, and while it doesn't solve the problem of how to give to FOSS projects that I mentioned above, it does solve the problem of remembering to donate money regularly.

  • by otakuj462 (1071510) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @11:00AM (#28265859)
    I posted a very similar idea [ubuntu.com] to Ubuntu brainstorm a few weeks ago, as a proposed solution to the problem of paying developers of free (libre) software. I feel it's highly relevant to the dialog taking place here about this article, so I've copy-pasted some of it here:

    Despite its closed nature, Apple's App Store has proven to be a tremendous success. The App Store model involves a central organization that approves and distributes commercial applications directly to users. The central organization takes a small percentage of the revenue generated on each app sold; the rest of the revenue goes directly in the pocket of the developer. The overall goal is to make it as easy as possible to connect users who want to pay for high-quality free software, to developers who want to produce that software.

    It is very easy to imagine Canonical acting as the the central distributor in this model, as it currently performs this role already with software that is free-as-in-beer (much of it is free-as-in-speech as well). Additionally, much of the core technologies required for such an app store to exist are already in place: distribution, packaging and installation is all provided by apt; Synaptic provides a convenient graphical front-end for installation and package management. Perhaps, with small extensions to these existing systems, it would be possible to create an infrastructure to allow for individual payments to application developers.

    It is also important to note that while Apple's app store primarily hosts non-free software (free as in beer, and free as in speech), and uses DRM to ensure that users do not make copies of this software, I believe that neither of these features are essential to the success of an Ubuntu App Store. It is possible to imagine individual users swapping .deb's of contribution-based software via filesharing networks, or visiting the authors' websites to compile "contribution-based" software from source and package it by hand; and, according to the terms of the GPL, and most other free software licenses, they would be completely within their rights to do so. However, such methods are much less convenient than simply clicking through a graphical interface, and obtaining your packages directly from Canonical, especially with respect to the demographic of non-technical users that Canonical would like to target. Just so long as value is added to the software in some way, be it by way of convenience or by some other means, then a "contribution-based" repository will be used over other methods of obtaining and installing the software. Additionally, I feel that many Ubuntu users would like to see developers get paid, and thus would be more inclined to use such a service.

    In conclusion, while putting a price on software that has otherwise been free-as-in-cost might at first seem a bit unusual, we must consider that providing a convenient, direct mechanism for developers to be paid for their software will help, not harm, the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution, the ecosystem of free-as-in-speech software, and the Free Software Movement in general. It will attract more users and more developers to the Ubuntu GNU/Linux platform, especially as such a mechanism does not exist on Microsoft Windows. One need only look to the success of the Apple App Store, and Sun's soon-to-be-launched Java app store, to see that there is a demand for such a distribution model.

    If you like this idea, please feel free to vote the it up on Ubuntu Brainstorm. Thanks,

    Jake
  • by wastedlife (1319259) on Tuesday June 09, 2009 @02:45PM (#28269617) Homepage Journal

    Take Ubuntu for example - when it works, that's cool. When something breaks, it breaks ugly and you very quickly destroy the illusion of user-friendliness. Suspend/hibernate, for example. Works great for lots of folks, but when it doesn't... you're building custom hibernate scripts, installing kernel mods like Tux on Ice, etc.

    That isn't a very good example. When suspend/hibernate does not work in windows, you are pretty much fucked or you need to dig around for a driver that might fix the problem. Is there a user-friendly way to fix that? Or what about when the MSI installer fails and breaks a bunch of things and leaves a bunch of bad registry entries and files, is there a user-friendly way to fix that?

    As much as any one vendor will try to make things user-friendly, eventually something will go wrong and someone will need to get their hands dirty.

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