Linux Adventure Pt 2: Ubuntu Apps

UbuntuMy Linux adventure continues on my modest Dell workstation. I’m pleased to say that so far things are going very well and Ubuntu continues to bring new life to my otherwise underpowered workstation. After getting over a few hurdles, what’s really impressive about my experience working on Ubuntu daily is how uneventful it is. Still, there’s always some room for improvement and the most glaring pain point is the lack of decent apps available for the operating system. Ubuntu just doesn’t have a good app ecosystem compared to MacOS and the Software Center is little more than an embarrassment.

Developer Interest: The simple and most basic cause of this is that there just aren’t many apps available, since developers don’t see Ubuntu as a platform worth developing for. Unfortunately, that’s probably true to a point. A simple Google search for developers considering moving their app project over from MacOS or Windows to Ubuntu, doesn’t yielding very heartening results. There also is something of (what I believe to be a misconception) among some developers where they believe that Ubuntu users are unlikely to purchase software.

App Distribution: Canonical, the developer of Ubuntu, released the Software Center several years ago with the hopes that it would become the equivalent of the App Store on MacOS. Unfortunately, the Software Center was poorly implemented and little to no effort was made to draw developers to the platform. Failing the Software Center, developers are left to their own devices for delivering their apps and there’s little standardization on Ubuntu or Linux as a whole for that matter when it comes to the easy distribution and installation of GUI apps.

The advantage of Ubuntu and Linux operating systems in general is that there are steps that the community can take to resolve issues on the platform. For instance, the community could develop an open-source alternative to the Software Center and encourage its adoption. Of course, Canonical could accelerate the process by throwing their development and financial weight behind such an effort and making a clearer statement about where the platform is headed.

Let me know what you think? Do you see Ubuntu as a viable development platform? Reach out to me in the comments below or on Twitter.


UPDATE: I have been made aware that the Software Center launched before the Mac App Store. I appreciate the correction. This only makes Canonical’s failure deeper, since they’ve had more time to work this out. Maybe the GNOME store will be better but I don’t think being first is in any way valuable in terms of being a developer and considering developing commercial software on the platform.  

  • Sam

    Please, at least get your facts straight. Ubuntu had the software center long before MacOS, and while not the most performant of the bunch, the software center served me very well to discover new apps (e.g. scanning software, OCR and pinta).

    • I’d argue that the Software Center being first is only another argument against Canonical, since they will have had more opportunity to improve it.

      Out of curiosity how much of that software was commercial?

      • Sam

        Or you could just acknowledge you did not research 🙂

        You could check that in the past using the “For purchase” option, but this has been deprecated probably because of the switch. Perhaps the new software center will show already, I’m still on 15.10.

        But probably not that much. Commercial apps on the Linux desktop hasn’t taken off at all.

        • Sam I did in the update 😉

          I appreciate the date checking but really it doesn’t matter when.

          If you want to make commercial software on Ubuntu / Linux the Software Center seems to be of little value to you. I’ve been getting some feedback on Twitter / Reddit to that effect.

          It’s sad really, I had high hopes.

          • Sam

            It changes the intention of why they build it (not to be on par with MacOS).

            Commercial software and Linux are a difficult combination, I agree. But the USC is not a big item to that respect. You can build all the software centers in the world: as long as the packaging issue does not get resolved, this issue will remain. We will see if the new wave of packaging technology combined with containers will turn this around.

      • Dow Hurst

        After being burned by commercial software more than once, either by the vendor disappearing or the loss of licensing, I am first looking for what I need in the open source community. Maybe that is more common than you might initially believe.

  • dangerdad

    Um, Mac OS store opened in Jan 2011 ( )

    Ubuntu Software Center opened in Oct 2011 ( )

    Sam, are you talking out of your ass?

    • Sam

      From your own link: “October 2009 – version 1.0.2 shipped with Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala)”.

  • Jack Lewis

    Also, when comparing the Ubuntu App Store to the Mac App Store, it’s worth noting that the Mac App Store is widely panned in the Mac community. It’s a terrible piece of software, pretty much everything about it sucks. And yet the Ubuntu App Store is even worse than that!

  • Jason Ish

    “There also is something of (what I believe to be a misconception) among some developers where they believe that Ubuntu users are unlikely to purchase software.”

    It would have be an order of magnitude better than the free alternatives for me to purchase an app. I’m not against buying apps, I buy stuff for the Mac and iOS all the time, but on Linux (Fedora for me) I usually find a free alternative that works good enough.

    And if you like Linux on a modest workstation, its even better on a modern workstation. I love Fedora on my brand new hex-core i7 workstation!