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Is SaaS Killing Native Linux App Development? 330

jfruhlinger writes "In a world where 'app' is the new buzzword, the development of native Linux apps is lagging. Some of this can be attributed to the usual community infighting (the latest version of which is argument about Ubuntu's Unity interface), but there may be something deeper at play: Linux advocates have for so long advocated browser-accessed software as a service as a way to break out of Microsoft's proprietary desktop. Now that this world has arrived, there's less incentive to work on native Linux apps. But of course, entrusting your functionality and data to a cloud provider like Google has its own set of concerns for free software fans."
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Is SaaS Killing Native Linux App Development?

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  • by Chonnawonga ( 1025364 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:15AM (#37947898)

    There is no argument about Unity. We all agree that it sucks. There is minor disagreement about the degree to which it sucks.

    Does that really stop anyone from writing Linux applications?

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      Does that really stop anyone from writing Linux applications?

      Developers don't really like using a tablet GUI on their desktop machine.

      Oh, but at least Windows 8 will level the playing field there...

    • by Chrisq ( 894406 )

      There is no argument about Unity. We all agree that it sucks.

      The guy that wrote it probably doesn't

    • Many people like it.

    • Actually no, there is a huge group of people who like Unity and a probably even bigger group who don't care.
  • by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:17AM (#37947934) Homepage
    Due to lack of good tools. With MS Visual studio / VB any old monkey can make GUI apps easily, with Linux its not that easy There are plenty of GUI creation kits out there for Linux apps that are

    *Easy to use
    *Widely supported
    *Actively maintained
    *Designed for use with a somewhat mainstream language

    But it seems to be a case of "pick any 3", or sometimes only 2.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Nonsense! Qt Creator is a perfect counterexample!

      *Easy to use: Check
      *Widely supported: Check
      *Actively maintained: Check
      *Designed for use with a somewhat mainstream language: Ch... well... ahn... wait, but what is a "somewhat mainstream language" anyway?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Qt Creator works well with C++ and Python, I'd call those both pretty mainstream.

    • by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

      This is exactly what I came here to say!

      Much as I dislike Windows, I have to admit that visual studio is a very well put together package and lets you hammer out those GUI apps very quickly. We do have some ok-ish GUI designers (like Qt-designer) .. but nothing with the kind of "drag a button to the screen.. double click.. insert logic" workflow that VS has.

    • by Ogi_UnixNut ( 916982 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:45AM (#37948352) Homepage

      wxglade works well with me, and being XML based can work with any language you want (and uses native widgets on all the OS'es, so it always looks well integrated). I use it with Python primarily, but it should work for anything (look on their site for officially supported languages).

      Have a look here if you're interested: http://wxglade.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Eclipse, Netbeans and Java.

      As a bonus, your programs will work on Windows too.

    • Really? I always thought developing in Linux was way easier, and I am no software engineer. The few times I tried to compile Win32 binaries I found it painful and slow...

      Seriously, just with Geany and a few packages and I am ready to go. That takes like 3 minutes during a Linux install.

      Then again I am a C/Lua/SDL/GL guy, maybe that's why.

    • by zlogic ( 892404 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:52AM (#37948478)

      Qt is an incredible toolkit. The only problem is that it looks "different" in Gnome, but about a year ago this problem seems to be solved.
      Qt Creator is one of the highest-quality IDEs - very easy to use, powerful and not getting in the way.
      Plus as a bonus Qt apps can be easily ported to Windows and MacOS, especially if they aren't using anything outside the Qt toolkit - many apps will simply compile and run with zero changes. Qt includes stuff like XML parsing, sockets, OpenGL etc. so you can probably will never need anything except Qt.
      The only thing some people don't like about Qt is the need for a preprocessor and duplication of C++ stdlib stuff (like containers, I/O operatuins), which supposedly fragments C++ development. But I actually like this - no need to use use multiple library dependencies, everything is included in Qt SDK, along with great documentation and works out of the box.
      There are concerns about Qt's future, since it no longer fits in Nokia's strategy. But it's quality definetly exceeds most toolkits like wxwidgets, gtk, mono and many others. Probably because the "boring" stuff like documenting and testing was done by full-time employees.

      Oh, and Windows native C++ development is horrible. Just look at how you're supposed to display the standard "open files" dialog and get the selected file names.

      • by Zo0ok ( 209803 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @01:12PM (#37949512) Homepage

        Oh, and Windows native C++ development is horrible.

        I have a stupid question... What is actually C++ about Windows Native Libraries. All I ever saw was just completely twisted C - twisted as in just weird datatypes, weird includes, and a Macro hell. I admit, you can declare variables anywhere (just not on top, as in C), but otherwise I cant understand how Microsoft can call it C++.

        Real C++ is so different from Microsoft C++.

        And QT is very nice. It combines the best of C, C++ and Java. QT Creator is the only IDE I ever appreciated. I really like the .pro file that contains everything about the project, and is still a very small simple text file; nothing like a configure-script or even worse a Microsoft Solution file. qmake uses the pro-file to make a Makefile.

        • by zlogic ( 892404 )

          Technically I was probably wrong - although some stuff in WinAPI looks like C++, such as
          - pre-defined pointers (LPCWSTR etc.) are close to C++ references
          - structs are used far more often than in C
          - less memory tricks, such as pointer arithmetic
          And MFC is C++, but most developers give up on using this monster, and instead implement their own C++ wrappers for making WinAPI usable.

    • With MS Visual studio / VB any old monkey can make GUI apps easily...

      And I'm happy that the "I know how to code in MS Access", "Who needs Object-Orientation in VB.NET? I can code like in VB6!" and "What is a parameterized query?" stays away from my platform of choice. Microsoft might have the bigger ecosystem of developers, but they're also crappier for the most part.

      *Easy to use *Widely supported *Actively maintained *Designed for use with a somewhat mainstream language

      Eclipse, NetBeans, QtCreator, MonoDevelop and CodeBlocks come to mind. I'd consider those all 4 (well, except MonoDevelop maybe) of your points. I mean, if you consider Java and C++ mainstream...it was at least

    • I have to say Qt and Python with various GUI technologies not only prove idea wrong, but I would say you can develop faster with them.

      That said, I wish there was a Linux equivalent to visual studio - although, Qt Designer is pretty damn close.

    • by JBMcB ( 73720 )

      It's not just the IDE, but the third party controls available. There are some *really* outstanding controls available for .NET/VCC/WPF. They are usually the first thing I miss when playing around with GTK/Qt development. Grids especially. The DevExpress grid is amazing - built-in filtering, sorting, grouping, basic report generation, paging, editor embedding, multiple binding modes, hybrid data types, runtime layout retention - that's weeks worth of coding for a couple thou (which gives you the rest of the

  • by MrBoring ( 256282 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:18AM (#37947950)

    This triggers my rant reflex...
    I started my career in native development, and only in the last say 5 years have I done almost exclusively Java based web development, mostly due to market demands and needing a paycheck. I miss the quick response times, quicker builds and simplicity where it was appropriate. I suspect the best hope for any native development now is maintaining legacy systems and mobile apps. People used to be in client/server development, but that's largely been replaced by the SaaS model due to comparative simplicity, but now we have a myriad of new technologies and frameworks globbed together. The industry's answer to any amount of complexity is yet another platform or framework and more indirection. It's hard to secure and know that it's done properly, and harder to know that someone else did it properly.

    Go ahead and shoot me, but I miss the real native development days, regardless of the platform.

  • It's not SaaS Killing Native Linux App Development it's the FAIB (free as in beer) crowd doing it. Basically there is no money to be made in desktop Linux development out there since people simply are not paying for the software.

    Most developers would use Java or QT and do all their work in Windows and then do a quick port and QA to Linux - if you're lucky.

  • Really this is not an argument about "in the cloud" or "webapp vs native app." One has to look at the reasons this is happening. The major reason is because most webapps are universally cross platform and usable anywhere. Other bonuses include that they are generally lightweight, don't require an install, and they sync your data between computers. Looking at that list of reasons, it is entirely possible to make native apps which do this, its just that most developers can't be bothered to do so (or aren't
  • The architecture (thin v fat client) is tangential to whether you in-source or outsource system administration.

    Most of the software we rely-on most is accessed via the browser:
    Roundcube, Gallery, phpMyAdmin, LDAP Account Manager, Trac, and most importantly our own internal systems.

    Once LibreOffice makes the switch my work will probably go days between firing up a GUI besides Firefox.

  • Despite being in free software for a bajillion years and using it as my desktop, I can't say that I've used any native Linux apps for anything really. For the past few years, it has just been a way to get a webbrowser running and to get online, and as a place to cache content. I also use Emacs and the dev environment to make my own (web) apps, and Apache to serve them.

    The only native apps I use are games that need native audio/video control.

    • What application do you use to edit photos and make illustrations? Or do you consider that application part of "the dev environment"?
      • That's a fair point. I guess I do think of a photo editor as part of the dev environment, but, that is really stretching the definition of "dev environment" too far.

        But the point I was trying to make, I guess, is that the native apps I use are used in my role as a developer. Rarely do I use native apps in the role of end user.

    • Native Linux apps are all I use. I don't do use SaaS stuff at all, and don't intend to start. I simply don't trust any third party enough to make myself so vulnerable to and dependent on them.

    • Native apps that I use in Linux every day:

      Clementine (audio player)
      Xine (video player)
      Musicbrainz (mp3 tagger)
      Google Earth
      Pidgin (IM client)
      Geeqie (photo browsing/basic editor)
      Minecraft (duh)
      Open Office
      Kate (text editor)
      K3B (burning software)

      And this is just the stuff I can think of off the top of my head while at work. On top of this, there are dozens upon dozens of other apps I use less frequently, but regularly. About the only web app I use that's replaced a native desktop app is Gmail.

      I suspect y

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Linux is dying (or perhaps dead). At least it is on the desktop. It was stillborn and never really had a chance. Everyone (myself included) spent so much time worrying about Microsoft that we ignored what Apple was doing - and then *wham*, OS X comes out. A Unix-backed desktop OS with a gorgeous UI that non-techies can actually use.

    Without a strong desktop presence, there is very little need for native apps. We sysadmins prefer our command line tools - and nobody can argue that there aren't a lot of those .

    • by cozytom ( 1102207 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @12:05PM (#37948632)

      Lets see, I am typing this in Linux, on my desktop at work.

      I first saw the story on my android phone, running Linux.

      There was a WiFi router that was running linux that sent it to my android phone.

      Nope, not the year of the desktop.

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @12:21PM (#37948834) Journal

      Linux is dying (or perhaps dead). At least it is on the desktop.

      Linux desktop seems steady at around 1%. Since computer usage is growing, that also means Linux desktop usage is growing. If I ever capture 1% of the global computer market, I would consider it a success beyond anything I could comprehend. So, you have a very odd definition of "dead".

      general app development on Linux dropped off years ago

      Huh? Like what? There are now decent 3D modelleers (blender), audio editors, photographic maniuplation, drawing, image stitching programs, indie games, etc. There is so much more than there was 10 years ago.

      But somewhere around 2002 I started to feel betrayed. Here I was, nearly 10 years later and Linux still wasn't on the desktop - at least not in any kind of meaningful way. Sure I kept hearing how 1997...1998...1999...2000...2001 were all going to be the "Year of Linux on the Desktop" - but it never happened.

      So you feel betrayed that the rantings of a bunch of usenetters didn't come to much? Wow. You have a low threshold for betrayal.

      all the while lifting as many UI ideas as they could from each OS

      Yeah well, that does kinda suck. The blind copying is making a mess of the Linus desktop experience.

      Here we are in 2011 and I'm seeing the same old shit.


      I'm just about ready to give up Slashdot because 90% of the Linux-related news stories just remind me that we haven't made any progress

      C' ya

    • Desktop is a strange notion that seems to mean Office PC - which means OS is irrelevant, but the Apps it runs Office, DB, Company app, Webbrowser Outlook etc is and only Windows can run these... so we are stuck with Windows

      OSX is pretty and works well, but is still the niche market is always was, and it is the apps it runs, image editing , video editing, design tools , that really sell it

      Linux has it's place as well, but it is not the Desktop because all the Desktop apps people currently use run on Window

    • You should come on over to Hacker News if you're looking for what Slashdot used to be circa 1998... http://news.ycombinator.com/ [ycombinator.com]

      I agree with you... the comments were the big draw, and mostly it's "herd mentality" on /. any more.

    • Well, I switched to only OpenBSD and GNU/Linux about a year ago, before that I mostly worked on Windows and deployed on Unix.

      However I do NOT like either Gnome, I do NOT like KDE, I do NOT like XFCE, I cannot stand Unity.

      I don't like ANY of the windowing environments that Unix/GNU Linux offer.

      I HATE Mac.

      So in reality I only like Windows Windowing environment, specifically Windows 2000 or Windows XP. I think those are very solidly done and they FEEL solid. They are very integrated, all of the cut/paste, all

  • It may be orthagonal to the point - or on the point - I can't tell - but one thought immediately came to mind.


    If by "app" you are talking a "user application", meaning one with a whole user interface (i.e. GUI), etc. - I'd say that is eroding. I wouldn't say that "SaaS" is what's eroding it however. I've been using Linux for almost twenty years, and only have written a single GUI-based (Glade) application for it. I see Linux as a "back-end" system, and have always used Windows, or a Mobile platform a

  • by jonsmirl ( 114798 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:39AM (#37948272) Homepage

    HTML5 is just another GUI front-end library. In no way does it require you to write cloud based apps. If you want a native Linux application write the GUI in HTML5 and run the server on the same machine as your GUI. Hmmm.... something kind of like the Xserver model, but brought 30 years into the future?

    When people whine about the ending of location transparency with the Xserver, what is going away is the Xserver as the primary GUI library, not location transparency in general. The Xserver needs to die, it is pass its prime and we need to move onto newer GUI technologies.

    So stop writing native Linux applications and instead start writing HTML5 applications that ship with a built-in server. The cool thing about apps in this model is that the GUI works on Linux, Mac and Windows plus you can run the server locally or in the cloud - your choice. If you want to help out convert some native Linux apps into the HTML5 model.

    Wayland is a key transition technology. It allows apps like Chrome/Firefox to be written directly to EGL. Plus you can run a user space Xserver as a legacy tool.

    • by tepples ( 727027 )

      If you want a native Linux application write the GUI in HTML5 and run the server on the same machine as your GUI.

      A few issues:

      • That runs into all sorts of firewall issues when the operating system blocks applications from listening on localhost.
      • On which port of localhost does your application listen that isn't already used by the other running applications?
      • Pop-up blocking features make notifications more difficult.
      • To what extent do all deployed web browsers support drag and drop of objects between the web browser and other windows?
      • All of these problems can be solved. I believe the rest of the world is going down the browser GUI path, so it is up to the Linux community to decide if they want to follow. Gnome/KDE are almost certainly dead ends.

        This is not an overnight switch. It will take a decade to fully transition to an HTML5 plus local server model.

        One reason why so many people don't like SAAS is because the server side of the app has been implemented closed source. Providing open source servers is one way to address that problem.

        • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          For example convert Open Office to a HTML5 plus local server model as a response to Google docs.

          Why the fsck would I want to convert Open Office to HTML5 when it already works fine as C++?

        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          All of these problems can be solved.

          Let me know when they are.

        • I believe the rest of the world is going down the browser GUI path

          Oh, god, I hope not. I've yet to see a browser-based anything that doesn't suck more than a natively-implemented version of the same thing.

          • Google has ported Quake to run inside Chrome using HTML5. You just aren't seeing fully developed HTML5 apps yet.

            The GUI libraries in older versions of HTML were not equivalent to their native counter parts. A lot of that had to do with Microsoft torpedoing the standardization and advancement of HTML. They seem to have stopped doing that now. Let's see how browser centric Win8 is now that the consent decree has expired.

            • A lot of that had to do with Microsoft torpedoing the standardization and advancement of HTML. They seem to have stopped doing that now.

              IE 9 requires Windows Vista, meaning we can't rely on HTML features introduced in IE 9 until April 2014 when Windows versions prior to Windows Vista enter end of life. IE 10 will require Windows 7, meaning we can't rely on HTML features introduced in IE 10 for the foreseeable future, or at least until five years after Microsoft announces the end of mainstream support for Windows Vista.

  • hmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @11:39AM (#37948284)
    Could it be because the set of target environments is so large compared to Windows / OS X? You've got to support multiple distros (and versions of distros), multiple desktop environments, etc.
  • I think that the majority of problems that were in the native environment are solved.
    Most of the desktop applications are mature and complete and a big part of the commandline never had problems that werent solvable to begin with.
    The last 10 years just caused a lot of problems to be solved on the web platform, now that HTML et al. are getting in mature state as well we will see coming 5 years that most problems on that platform are getting solved too.
    Even scalability problems are getting solved with virtual

  • That is why everyone wants VLC to be ported from Linux to mobile devices to finally get a decent player out there. That is why mplayer despite having no interest in doing windows support has people working on turning it into a windows version to get an even better player out there?

    What apps are we talking about exactly? Fart apps? Angry birds?

    There is a ton of software available for free install. What more do you need?

    Or maybe the author is talking about payed for apps? Maybe the genius that wrote synergy s

    • Umm Mplayer has been available on Windows for years, and they have windows binary downloads on their own website...
  • Is _____ (Suggestions: Apple, Microsoft) KILLING Linux/Google/Bitcoin _____ ?

    For example:

    I think I have the formula fogured out, these articles are actually heuristically generated from statistically high word count topics, and kdawson and Soulskill are actually AIs.

  • At least 75% of the distro's it is going to remain a non RAD platform.

    The ONLY project that comes close is Lazarus. They have it pretty well worked out. Yes is is Delphi and I know everyone just LOVES to hate Pascal but guess what people as a language it does 99% of what needs to be done and the other 1% is just esoteric stuff that can be done without.

    If you want it to do C++ then get onto the project and write the C++ for it.

    It is drag and drop GUI interface, right click of the component or double click o

    • Non-issue, for the major software and desktops can run apps intended for one on the others. Can run KDE apps under GNOME, versa vice. 75% of linux desktop users use GNOME or GNOME compatible thing anyway. Most of the world is going to go mobile anyway, Linux has huge edge there.
  • by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Friday November 04, 2011 @12:35PM (#37949040) Homepage Journal
    Browser-accessed software does not lessen the incentive to work on native Linux apps. It lessens the incentive to work on native desktop apps in general. The number of native Linux apps that aren't getting written is dwarfed by the number of native Windows apps that aren't getting written. Think about it in that perspective.
  • ...versus desktop-based, frivolously, is the penchant for cloud developers for the addition of payware components in their apps. But, that's the hook, isn't it? You get basic interface or a limited-time run with the advanced stuff, then the advanced components (let's say for online games, premium credits for better ingame gear) come at cost of real-world fiat.

    In my world, outdated and quaint as it is, once you buy something you own it. It's yours and its disposition is your business. If you want to use a sp

  • I think what's killing native Linux app development is that most of what needs to exist already does.

    Seriously - while some programs could use some tweaking (IE, GIMP isn't quite as robust and capable as Photoshop, but it does similar things and is good enough for most casual users), just about anything that you'd want to do for day-to-day stuff there's already a native "app" for that.

    The only time I find Linux lacking is for video games, which as an entertainment medium follow a different model than utilit

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