Widening Canonical's Commercial Software Pipeline - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
9/22/2008
02:13 PM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Widening Canonical's Commercial Software Pipeline

My comments about Unison in last week's blog from the Web 2.0 Expo -- specifically, that its product was to be distributed through Ubuntu's own repositories -- prompted Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical, to get in touch with me. From the look of it, offering commercial software through Linux repositories is the next big st

My comments about Unison in last week's blog from the Web 2.0 Expo -- specifically, that its product was to be distributed through Ubuntu's own repositories -- prompted Gerry Carr, marketing manager for Canonical, to get in touch with me. From the look of it, offering commercial software through Linux repositories is the next big step to mainstream acceptance for Linux.

Back when Canonical was at Linuxworld, it spoke about building an ecosystem for Linux that features both free and commercial software. The hard part: how do you make it available and installable, without deal-breaking confusion and frustration? And how do you deal with for-pay apps, on top of that?

Gerry described Canonical's strategy like so: "We've been working with companies like Parallels and CyberLink [makers of PowerDVD] to make their software and codecs, if any are needed, available to Ubuntu users. We did this in a couple of different ways: one is through the repository, where we have a restricted version available to everyone. 'Restricted' in this case means it's either limited-term usage version of the application -- for instance, Parallels VM is a 30-day free trial edition. Then we made the license keys available for these products in our shop."

Most of the software seems to be enterprise-level material like Unison, Alfresco, Lotus Symphony, and Zimbra (the latter is shipping right now), but the most crucial products being delivered this way are probably things which cannot be open-sourced due to patent restrictions. To wit:

"The other major case we deal with is when you have products like codecs, like Fluendo's codec pack. This isn't restricted; once you have those codecs, you can use them as you please. But we can't make them available through the repositories, because they're not freely redistributable. In that case, we have set up a restricted download area -- it's not available through the repositories, but through the online store. For instance: I go to the store, I buy my Fluendo codec pack, and I get sent an e-mail with a download link.

"Both of these models let us deliver for-pay, commercial software to the audience. Obviously, all the other free software -- both free-as-in-speech and free-as-in-beer -- will continue to be made available in the conventional repositories."

Side note: The timeout mechanisms in these programs are up to the individual software vendors. That said, Gerry isn't aware of this being an issue: the lack of any kind of platform-level support for software authorization in Linux a la Product Activation (something most FOSS advocates would reject anyway) hasn't been cited as something that would prevent people from developing for Linux.  My guess is, wait until the prospective audience becomes bigger before even thinking about this as something to squirm over.

I mentioned that Nero has rolled out a version of its own software for Linux, but it expected most of the traction for its products to come from two places: consumer-level hardware with Linux pre-installed in it, and Linux converts from the Windows side who want to get the same pay-for-it-and-it-works functionality that they expected to get in Windows.

"We've [also] been working with Fluendo to make their products available to OEMs," Gerry said. "The Dell Inspirons that come packaged with Ubuntu also have a full range of DVD/MP3 codecs and so forth -- but I should say, we would prefer if this stuff wasn't restricted in the first place! But these are consumers, these aren't people who are aware of the politics behind codecs or DRM; they just want DVDs to work. We work with our partners to make Ubuntu / Linux an acceptable variant to Windows, and this is one of the things we feel we have to do to make that happen. That's probably going to be the case with much of this software: that they can and should experience it as one instead of picking up each of the pieces separately."

We talked a fair amount more about this issue, about how there will undoubtedly be tension between the consumer-level Linux contingent (of which Canonical/Ubuntu is probably the biggest representative), and the more ideological, platform-centric contingent. If offering quality commercial software on Linux brings that many more people to it, is that a bad thing? As long as it doesn't hamper the continued development of the freedom culture that was born with Linux, sure -- and frankly, I don't see that stopping anytime soon.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
Data Science: How the Pandemic Has Affected 10 Popular Jobs
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  9/9/2020
Commentary
The Growing Security Priority for DevOps and Cloud Migration
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  9/3/2020
Commentary
Dark Side of AI: How to Make Artificial Intelligence Trustworthy
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  9/15/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Automation Transforms Network Management
In this special report we will examine the layers of automation and orchestration in IT operations, and how they can provide high availability and greater scale for modern applications and business demands.
Slideshows
Flash Poll