Tuesday, May 26, 2009

SUCKAGE about Commercial Linux Software

Sigh... Somewhere in the back of my mind, I figured this would happen eventually. Bryan Lunduke of Jupiter Broadcasting has ended his experiment of selling commercial Linux software.

To sum it up:
  • The actual ratio of downloads to sales is fairly good (60:1)
  • Linux and Mac downloads are on equal footing, while Windows is three times higher
  • Ubuntu accounted for a majority (75%) of Linux downloads, distro neutral package accounted for 10% of Linux downloads
  • Bryan is bummed about the results and conclusions

Now, you can head to his blog and read about it in the link in the beginning of the post, but I wanted to add a bit about the results.

While it is true there are a segment of Linux users that want to support commercial efforts, there are many factors that hindered Bryan's experiment. Two major ones were press and economy.

What do I mean by press? I mean that in the Linux world, it is rather difficult to actually locate Linux software for anything EXCEPT the enterprise. This isn't a huge surprise to any seasoned Linux user, because there aren't really that many large commercial efforts for Linux at the direct consumer level. Of the top distros, only Ubuntu and Mandriva actually focus on the desktop. Fedora, while recently pushing for better quality desktop and more work is being focused on it at the community level, the company that actually funds and manages Fedora (Red Hat, Inc.) is ambivalent to the possibility of the Linux Desktop. Red Hat pulled out of that market in 2005, and according to their recent statements, they do not see a way to make money that way. At the opposite end, OpenSUSE has long been focused on desktop refinement, but their corporate backer, Novell, is pushing hard for a change in focus towards the enterprise. Novell still sells boxed SUSE copies at BestBuy here in the USA.

Now because of this focus in the enterprise, Linux news sites typically only focus on news relating three topics: innovative/new/featured open source projects, enterprise usage of Linux, and patent issues. Because of this, there is an inherent deficiency regarding stuff that affects direct consumers more: games and average priced consumer software (avg priced being $0.01 - $500). In the Linux world, it is very difficult to get the word out on games and consumer commercial software because those sites don't really care enough about it. Oh, a few do, but most don't.

The economy is another huge factor. Frankly, this economic crisis is both good and bad for Linux. It is good because people will take a harder look at open source and free software because of their increasingly constrained budgets, but it also means that commercial efforts are more likely to fail. The only ones that can afford to make commercial Linux software without sinking to their doom in the current conditions would be the big companies like Adobe, who won't do it unless there is a significant outcry for it.

Unfortunately, because of the vocal zealots in the minority who back the Free Software Foundation and try to make any decent commercial efforts redundant and useless, people become hesitant to make commercial Linux software. Now, if the software is already for no-cost, and it is problematic, like Adobe's Flash Player, then I can understand building an open source clone of it. But to try to replicate something like Flash Studio without making a significantly large effort to try to get Adobe to release Linux versions is just ludicrous and shows that the company's efforts would be wasted. Granted, nobody has actually tried to any significant degree to do just that, so Adobe still has a viable market in that.

A few exceptions to this rule are obviously possible, like the Wine project. It would be crazy to not be able to run Windows applications on Linux, especially older games that may not even work on Windows now.

But what is missing is a nice site set up just for reporting and indexing Linux shareware, commercial software, and games. Something focused on the consumer, not the enterprise. Also, we need to push for the Big Apps to be brought to Linux. If any of you real computer geeks out there remember your computer history, Windows did not really become relevant until Aldus PageMaker was brought to Windows, and was able to sustain its popularity because Adobe Photoshop 3.0 was released with Windows support. People will not consider Linux unless we have apps like these available on the Linux side.

As much as people want to say GIMP is just as good as Photoshop, it simply isn't true. GIMP is well suited for more casual usage, but real pros will absolutely need Photoshop. And Wine is only a stopgap measure.

We don't have a decent video editing and multi-stream manipulation package on Linux. The Adobe Creative Suite has been available for Windows and Mac for a long time. Windows also includes Windows Movie Maker for extremely rudimentary single stream video editing. iMovie is its equivalent on Mac OS X. If someone made a well designed and fully featured video manipulation package available for Linux (that is easy to use and reliable), that person would make a decent living off of it.

I could go on and on about the problems we have regarding Linux and consumer desktops, but Bryan covered that rather well.

In the end, Bryan Lunduke decided to make them all available for free. He even said that he plans to have a staggered release cycle for open sourcing each of the programs. I do applaud this, but it also shows how badly the pressure seems to kill commercial software.

Sigh... another nail in the coffin for commercial software on Linux....

I'm all for free software as much as the next guy, but any operating system needs a hybrid of both to truly succeed. DOS made it easy for homebrew development because of its BASIC compiler/interpreter included up to DOS 7/Windows 95. UNIX was generally too costly to consider for homebrew.

Linux would be considered the holy grail for homebrew development, if it were well known. As it is, many components from Linux are used for homebrew development, once they have been ported to Windows.

No platform can survive on only free software, nor can it only survive on only enterprise software being commercially available. Eventually costs outweigh the benefits and it will get dropped.

That is why I want to see more consumer-oriented commercial software for Linux. I want to see the superior platform succeed....

1 comment:

Paolo said...

Nice post! I think you got the point, i.e., If you want to make a living in Linux with proprietary software you should create something like iMovie and pixelmator (photoshop clone for Mac cheap and good) at affordable prices (50/60 bucks). Imho, The 'problem' with Bryan software is that it is niche software.