February 22, 2003

How to bring more commercial applications to Linux

Author: JT Smith

- By Matija Suklje -
What most of you have probably already noticed is that Linux lacks commercial "professional" applications (e.g. Photoshop, flash MX) and commercial games. And that is the main reason why most "dual-booters" and potential Linux users don't (fully) migrate to this astounding OS. And why doesn't the Linux community get any greater confirmation from the commercial industry? Because they think that we, the Linux users, wouldn't pay money for their software and are afraid that we aren't really interested in their applications.p>
That is partially true: the average Linux user doesn't want to spend good money on an application he could get for free. But there are still some applications that get quite a lot of respect from Linux users and those who need them would be quite happy if they could get them for their favourite OS even if they would need to pay for them.

A large niche in the software industry is "professional" applications. Most Web developers are having quite a hard time trying to make Flash applications, and quite a few designers are a bit frustrated that they can't get a Linux port of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. And let's not forget that even needed applications such as printer/scanner driver sand web-browser plugins aren't supported as much in Linux as they should be (e.g. flash Player and Shockwave).

The other, maybe even bigger niche is games. While Linux gamers always enjoy and have a big bunch of open source games, there still is a large demand for commercial games. (UT2003 went the right way, and NWN is also slowly crawling in that direction). But the gaming industry is scared about the "new market", especially since Loki went bankrupt.

And that is just why most Linux users rant and rave on forums, IRC channels and mailing lists about how they can't get apps to run under Linux (using emulators etc).

That's all nice and fine, but that won't change the situation Linux users and the whole Linux community have to cope with! Nothing will change this way, it's going to stay as it is - only ranting and raving on and on. But we, the Linux community, as one of the most powerful user communities that ever existed, have a chance to change this! The only problem is that we don't act as a community on this level. And this is where a .org needs to jump in.

We need a .org that would benefit both Linux users and the software market. (Let's face it, if they don't see some profit, they won't even consider us.)

What would benefit the users? They would have an organisation that would try to persuade the software companies to make software they need. They would also get a place on the Web where they would have the right and chance to say what software they want and need and how those, who are (will be) already available for Linux, are usable.

What would the software industry and particular companies get out of it? Well, the first thing that pops into mind is new users and with them more money. The second would be that the Linux community is rather fond of helping out at projects they like. That would give them a very reliable source of feedback in categories like bug-fixing, testing, and future feature requests. Some companies are quite afraid of the "new market" because they don't know it. And that's another thing that this .org would try to solve: while Linux users get to say what they want and need, the software industry gets info about what they would like to buy. That way both sides would benefit.

No bombs, no casualties, no rants and raves, no fear of the "new market".

And how would we do it? Pretty easy, actually. All we need is a Web space for a community/organisation to explain why the Linux community and the commercial part of the software market should walk hand-in-hand, and how to achieve this. But the major role would have to be played by the Linux community itself. The Linux community would have to make the head start. It would have to provide info about how large this community is, what they use, and what they miss, want and need. That would be fulfilled pretty easily: all we would need would be structured polls concerning what _kind_ of software do they use, miss, want and need.

The second stage would be a (structured) list of all the software the community wants, needs, misses and uses. And in this list the community would fill in requests (by numbers of requests the industry would know what to make; example: transgaming.com), give feedback about the code itself (its functionality, since probably most of the companies won't open their code so quickly), its features, suggestions about the application etc.

This is doable but the community and the industry have to listen to each others' needs. That's the only way, we'll ever get this running!!!

And don't think this is a heretical view and that this would be the downfall of open source. Quite the opposite. If we can get commercial applications to run under Linux, people who need them will buy and use them, and others will still use open software instead (e.g. OpenOffice.org, Gimp, Mozilla, Ming). Maybe we will even encourage some companies to seriously consider open-source. ;-)

Editor's Note: This article grew from a message Matija posted in a Gentoo discussion forum.


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