Free is too expensive (Economist)
Posted Mar 31, 2012 12:24 UTC (Sat) by anselm
In reply to: Free is too expensive (Economist)
Parent article: Free is too expensive (Economist)
It's the other way around. Application includes minimum version of API in it's manifest file. Store only blacklists applications by the third-party requests (for example carriers like to blacklist tethering apps), it does not proactively track the compatibility story.
So what? You tell the app store that your machine is running Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 on an amd64 architecture. You pick an app and click on the »Download« icon, and the app store sends you a package for the app that will run on Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 on amd64. Everyone is happy.
It may of course be the case that the app store doesn't have the app packaged for Debian GNU/Linux 6.0 on amd64. In that case you won't get a »Download« icon. You may get a »Ask the app developer to provide a package for my system« icon. This will help app developers to figure out which distributions to support. The app store could also publish statistics on which distributions have the largest number of supported apps available (possibly by topic such as »games« or »web development tools«), which may help people pick what distribution to use in the first place.
There is: Linux desktop has no stable ABI thus if application works in distro M version N it does not mean it'll work in distro M version N+1.
A popular app store may create pressure on distributors and upstream projects (such as KDE or GNOME) to get their act together and be more careful about backwards compatibility. Backwards compatibility isn't really a problem with Linux as such or with distributions, it is mostly a problem of upstream developer negligence or incompetence.
Also, if somebody at some point does define a cross-distro ABI that actually does provide desktop apps with what they require, that could be an alternative to targeting individual distros. If an app targets »LSB-NG 1.1«, that package would automatically be made available to all distros that are known to support that standard.
App developer is not forced to do anything in any case.
My experience with packaging stuff for Debian is that it is usually not a problem to move simple desktop apps forward from one version of Debian to the next, as far as the actual packaging is concerned. The ABI problem is potentially a different issue, but as long as you can get your stuff to compile and run, making it into a package for Debian N+1 isn't a big thing if you have already made it into a package for Debian N.
The app store concept would make most sense if it came with tools that would assist app developers with actually providing packages for different popular distributions (again, the SUSE build service comes to mind as a possible model). The whole system could – and probably would – gradually move towards a more standardised platform. Doing it the other way round, by trying to provide the standardised platform first and hoping for people (and distributions) to adopt it, is probably going to be less successful.
What will definitely not accomplish anything is sitting here and whining about how not only the present situation is terrible, but also how all the suggested approaches to ameliorate the present situation will never work. The Linux community does not work by revolution but by evolution, which is by its very nature difficult to direct. In the absence of a Steve Jobs figure who will lay down the law for everybody, the only thing we can do is offer something and hope that people will consider it a good idea and go along with it.
Please outline how your app store concept is going to make Linux a viable option for current Windows or OS X users while at the same time making the existing Linux distributions obsolete and not driving off existing users who like things as they are. (Note that »Google will sort it all out for us« is not an acceptable answer this time around.)
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