‘App Store’ is one of the words introduced by Apple in the recent history of commercial software applications. The concept basically offers an online store where you can purchase various applications written for a specific platform. As an example, there are various App Stores setup for Mac software, iPhone/iPad software etc. These online stores do sell applications that range from simple screensavers to software worth a few thousand dollars.
Ubuntu, one of the mainstream Linux distributions adopted the same concept of an online store for making the life easy for the ordinary Linux user. But what does it mean by purchasing open source applications through an online store? Isn’t it contradictory? Open source is not for purchase right? Let’s have a detailed look into Ubuntu App Store in order to figure out what’s going on there.
The App Store was first introduced by Canonical, the creators and sponsors of Ubuntu during an Ubuntu developer summit. The name of the online application store went through quite an evolution in terms of the name. It was first code named as AppCenter and now it is called simply Ubuntu Software Store. This is a completely a brainchild of Canonical and the software store surely increase the value of Canonical as an open-source / Linux company.
The main feature of this app store when compared to traditional software installation mechanism on Linux is the proper categorization. Almost all the free and open source software under the Sun has been carefully categorized, so the regular users can browse through the categories and install what they prefer to install. On the other hand, this again helps people to tryout Ubuntu more, and eventually increasing the conversion into Linux.
In a Linux system, there are various ways of installing an application. One can download the source and compile it by oneself and install. Or, they can use many package management systems and they are different from one another. When it comes to the Ubuntu app store, there is a unique specialty in terms of installation methodology. The uses of the App Store can just click and install any application available in the App Store. But in the backend, not all these applications come in the same installation methodology. They share different methodologies such as Update Manager, Synaptics, and Gdebi. The App Store has unified all these methods into one easy step, so the user does not have to be bothered about the method used for installing the applications. This unifications of software installation on Linux was long due task done by the Ubuntu team.
In addition to the installation of new software, Ubuntu App Store can also be used for installing updates for the existing software applications. This makes maintaining and updating a Linux system smooth and seamless.
Have you heard about Launchpad? This is a free and open-source software repository where users can download the developer and latest stable versions of software. Canonical is now planning to integrate the app store with the Launchpad, so Linux users can access the latest builds available in the Launchpad as well. Once this is done, Ubuntu App Store will be useful for both regular users as well as advanced users who are keen on laying their hands on the latest builds.
Now, let’s go back to our original questions; purchasing open source software. As you can now understand, although this is an app store, you do not have to buy the software, rather download and install them for free of charge. Although this follows the same commercial format of an App Store, it also protects the open source interests by offering all the open source software. In addition to the open source software, there are free but proprietary software (such as device drivers) available in the App Store.