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Is it worth selling software on Ubuntu Software Centre?
112 points by nvr82 1730 days ago | hide | past | web | 53 comments | favorite
Do you have experience selling your apps on Ubuntu Software Centre? Is it worth to develop software for Ubuntu/Linux(moneywise)?

I'm more interested to hear stories about non-game software, but game developers can also share their thoughts,

I think that most of the people you talk to here are going to tell you to avoid it. A lot of us have apt-get engrained in our minds as the defacto interface for managing software on Debian based systems.

That being said: why not? For Apple, the App Store is great. It shows you what is popular and what others find useful. It adds a layer of social proof to your applications. I was using an HTTP REST client for the longest time that was a pain in the ass to use. A lot of user interface inconveniences existed. After Google failed me, I cracked open the App Store and was fortunately able to find the app Rested. It's not perfect in my opinion, but it's been a breath of fresh air when developing my API.

We can argue all we want on the walled garden approach of the App Store, but it's a great platform. We also need to remember that it's still an infant, and it's going to evolve and improve. The more we use it when building software, and the more our customers and users use it to discover and rate our stuff, the better it will become. Apple certainly doesn't let the community dictate their moves, but they certainly allow us to influence their decisions if enough people are on board.

For this reason, I think you should definitely start using the Ubuntu software center. If it provides a simple and more pleasant experience for your users, great! Hopefully there will be more and more people looking at desktop Linux in the future who will need a place to find applications. If you can help evangelize and shape their platform with the weight of a successful app, then the whole ecosystem will grow and flourish from it.

As a Linux user, I pay developers whenever I can and if there are no official channels like Ubuntu Software Center then I just donate directly.

Judging by the ratio of upvotes to answers, this seems like a topic that a lot of people are interested in but nobody knows about.

Personally, as a user of Ubuntu, I never use the Ubuntu Software Centre - not even for free software - I much prefer apt-get, and I'm not aware of anything (aside from paid software, which I didn't even know about until you mentioned this) that Ubuntu Software Centre does that apt-get doesn't.

As a side note, aptitude is a superior package management tool to apt-get. The syntax is the same, but aptitude has 3 main advantages:

1) Keeps track of system state. Tracks packages installed as dependencies, and remove them when necessary meaning no orphaned packages.

2) Handles recommends well. apt-get fails to handle recommends, which many packages depend on to pull in dependencies.

3) Searching. More intuitive and better formatted than apt-cache search. There is also the text UI when running aptitude directly. For example, how do I find all installed python packages?

    $ apt-cache search python
    Returns all packages with python in title or description.

    $ aptitude search '~ipython'

    $ aptitude search python | grep ^i # installed packages are flagged with i on the first line

"apt-cache search" does AND search over everything by default which is neat to find software for something. with aptitude you have to use some cryptic flags for that.

to look for packages that you have installed use "dpkg -l"

aptitude is otherwise great and I prefer it over apt-get

With aptitude you would use the description flag (~d) like so:

    $ aptitude search '~dautojump'
    p   autojump                                 - shell extension to jump to frequently used directories                          
    p   jumpapplet                               - autojump notification icon, to jump to frequently used directories

"and remove them when necessary meaning no orphaned packages."

I understand the reasoning in this, the only downside is that it means if I've started to use something that only got installed as a dependency, it can disappear without warning.

"More intuitive and better formatted than apt-cache search."

This is neat, I may start using it.

To be honest, a lot of people have recommended aptitude to me over the years, but I've never seen enough of a benefit to try to override my muscle memory. I guess it's a classic "bicycle problem".

"and remove them when necessary meaning no orphaned packages."

Is this the same as:

"apt-get autoremove"


I use aptitude because I can use one tool to search and install, I never learned when to use apt-get and when time use apt-cache.

If a package depends on a recommendation, then that sounds like a packaging bug. Report it to the package maintainer.

Although aptitude still has some bugs on bi(/multi)-arch machines, i.e. you install x64 on your machine but still install some packages in x86 for compatibility reasons; aptitude sometimes has dependency issues.

It's not a bug, but it is a problem. Aptitude's resolver is pickier. Debian has finally embraced multiarch systems and restructured x86 packages. It can still lead to weird dependency issues (but they're just that—issues with dependencies), but they're far less common and this strategy seems to have given them the confidence to include a lot more x86 library coverage than there once was.

Just for the record apt-get (in Debian at-least) supports 1 and 2 as well.

I find Arch Linux's pacman/AUR far better than apt-get or Aptitude. Apt is all over the place - apt-get, dpkg, and building from source is just another story.

I've been using apt-get on this laptop for 2 years. If I start running aptitude, what should I know?

Nothing really. It's the same interface to the same software.

I'm a long time Debian user and always use apt-get, but I just used the USS for the first time to buy Sword & Sworcery to have something to play for the holiday. Painless purchase and one click installation.

Chose that game after seeing it in the Steam client, but wasn't able to buy it for Linux there.

Great game by the way.

Command Line is without any doubt superior than Ubuntu Software Center but I have slowly started moving all software installation and update related stuff to Ubuntu Software Center and System updater respectively. Ubuntu Software center is at the moment a little clunky.

I thought the Ubuntu User Software was just a graphical sugar around apt-get.

There's a bit more to it. I don't think apt-get has the capabilities of providing for-pay software.

It provides a point-and-click way to add repositories recommended by Canonical (including the paid stuff). If you're at the command line, you have to already know what repositories you want to add.

Short answer: no, it's not worth it.

I'm selling the same app on both Ubuntu Software Center [1] and Mac App Store [2]. Between June and December I have sold 29 licenses on Ubuntu store and ~2000 licenses on Mac App Store.

Chrome Web Store [3] seems to be a much more promising distribution channel for Linux apps. With the new APIs it will be possible to access native window manager, USB ports, filesystem or webcam. Besides, you don't have to deal with incompatibilities between distros.

[1] https://apps.ubuntu.com/cat/applications/type-fu/

[2] https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/type-fu/id509818877?ls=1&...

[3] http://developer.chrome.com/apps/about_apps.html

Thank you for you comment. This kind of comments I was looking for.

What I've been looking into this today...It seems that it's not really worth it, as you said. I would kind of want it to worth it, maybe some day it will be.

Ubuntu software centre has always felt a bit lacklustre to me as a paid software place. Most of the stuff on the front page is either listed as free, have bad icons and screenshots (sometimes Unity,sometimes Gnome 2 or something else) or all 3.

Not to mention that the UI is kinda slow and clunky.

Basically gives the feeling of being in a neon lit discount store rather than a premier software showroom.

I think it might do better to get rid of it as an application altogether and just build an attractive webpage that gives a lot of space over to highlighting the best, most polished commercial apps with a handful of the higher quality open source desktop software. Use a browser plugin to trigger installation.

Installing open source libraries, dependencies and dev tools could be handled by a more utilitarian ncurses front end to apt or something.

Since Debian 4 I usually use synaptic as my package manager. It's really just a GUI frontend for aptitude but I've never had any issues using it.

There seems to be only a few commercial packages in the Ubuntu Software Centre. As a commercial developer that probably means one of two things: (1) The market is yours for the taking or (2) There is no market.

I'd be curious to know if it is worth it as well. Have you spoke with any commercial developers directly?

No I haven't, but I was planning to send some emails and ask.

If I want to sell Linux apps, what is the alternative?

Put it on your website and take payments in the form of Paypal/credit card/bitcoins/whatever in exchange for a download link.

If you want to sell for Android (which is, of course, a type of Linux), try the Google or Amazon app stores.

Dominions 3 [1], a commercial game with a native Linux build, recently changed publishers and is now sold on Desura [2].

If you enjoy making your users put up with horrible DRM, I've seen multiple HN articles about how Linux support for Steam is in the works.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominions_3:_The_Awakening

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desura

"If you enjoy making your users put up with horrible DRM, I've seen multiple HN articles about how Linux support for Steam is in the works"

It's an open beta right now with about 40 games listed under Linux.

Super Meat Boy, which has over 1M sales across all platforms, has a whopping 77 sales from the Ubuntu Software Centre.

Remember that SMB was being sold as part of the Humble Bundle when it was first added to the Ubuntu Software Center, and sales made through HIB aren't in that 77 figure, even if they were downloaded via USC.

Which those 77 sales are really pirate copies as Ubuntu Software Centre sold SMB without permission and hasn't paid the SMB any either. I'd stay away from them if they're willing to pull this type of shenanigans.


From Jono Bacon at Canonical:



Regarding the Super Meat Boy issue, here is a response from David Pitkin who runs the Ubuntu Software Center at Canonical and works with developers:

"I just looked into it and the check to Tommy and Edmund from Canonical is in process for the 77 copies of Super Meat Boy. We have been working together since November to get it resolved, no piracy here just some miscommunication".

According to the earlier story about Super Meat Boy, it was on the store for a year and only sold 77 copies.

That's meaningless by itself -- SMB was sold through a lot of other channels, both on other platforms and on Linux, before it was put in the store. It's placement in the store was also accidental, and so probably didn't get promoted much!

Yes I thought it was pretty snarky of Canonical to release that figure and I thought it cast them and their platform in a worse light than SMB. That info release more than anything in that incident would put me off working with Canonical and the Ubuntu App Store.

Software center... never use it, in fact the way it had mixed the non-installed stuff with installed software really ticked me off (this is probably my biggest gripe with unity, wheres the menu of all the installed apps??? I don't want to shop ALL THE TIME!). I had installed gnome classic (for getting to whats installed) and Synaptic/Web sites to get to what's not.

So went to find software center - not in the classic menu, but entering software-cetner got it from the terminal.

Seems it suffers like all the others, only one level of hierarchy, looking for Desktop publishing, select office and start reading through the hundred plus entries, most of which have a clever name and icon which does nothing to relate it to desktop publishing at all.

You want o make big bucks at your app, help develop better app stores, so people can find your app.

I would be pessimistic. Most people in the Linux community aren't in the habit of paying for software.

Also, I avoid the Ubuntu Software Centre as much as I can. I find the Ubuntu desktop to be atrocious and I log in via ssh as much as I possibly can to Ubuntu machines.

If there's any market here it would be for a $500+ product that customers want bad enough to deal with the USC than it would be for $5 games; even in that case most of your marketing work is going to be outside the USC.

Why hasn't anybody come out with a Linux distribution that contains an Android personality so that you can run Android apps side to side with normal Linux apps kinda like Windows 8? It seems Linux could use this to close the usability gap with other OSes.

That's not really true: If you develop a nice and polished desktop application which can be better than an opesource alternative we are disposed to pay.

For example check the Humble Bundle: Linux users always pay more than average. Although I'd not sell in the Ubuntu Software Center: As you would miss a lot of users from other distros (or people who don't use the Software Center).

Not quite true. Linux users are the 'true average'. The problem is, Windows Humble Bundles are bought for $0.01 en masse with the intention of reselling, sinking its average price.

IIRC, there is no "Windows Humble Bundle", you buy the bundle and can download the software for whichever OS you like, including all of them.

Can you cite some data that indicate Windows HB license are bought with the intention to resell them?

I know a few places reselling the bundles. steampay.com/bundle is an example.

I think its not that Linux users always pay more than average, it simply is less Linux pays below the average.

I'm the same way as far as my habits (using ssh, went back to debian because Canonical was getting a bit too commercial ), but that doesn't mean that they couldn't find some niches that would do well.

Software that runs on Linux that I've seen people pay for:

Accounting and Bookkeeping

Medical Billing/Practice Management

POS/Retail Inventory Management

Industrial Control Management Interfaces

Are you seeing a theme? Boring useful software that needs to be maintained to keep up, and software that talks to other systems.

The Humble Bundle Linux version usually sells well.

I doubt that Humble Bundle's Linux sale would perform that well if the games aren't playable on Windows/Mac, considering the games that claim to be playable on Linux ends up buggy on it.

If I could get it working on Mint, I'd use it, and I am happy to pay. I am disinclined to switch my distribution for it though.

I hate how most stores look on Linux, and they are slow. The only one that seems decent is Deepin:


There are still a lot of things that don't seem ready for prime time for the consumer market in Linux distros, and I wish it wasn't like that.

I use the software center whenever I can. I like the reviews, screen-shots, description, and link to official website.

It's a pretty ugly piece of software with unrefined edges all over the place but it gets the job done for now. That being said I've never bought anything through the software center, just installed free software.

Not speaking from direct personal experience, however the Humble Bundles have found that linux users tended to pay more than average, which goes against the common assumption that linux users want everything for free.

Kind of users on Linux and Windows and Mac is different, so same app would have different sales. Most of Linux users has good computer knowledge therefore some apps like Type-Fu should have bad sales. Also most of gamers living on windows not Linux... Can anybody share his sales statistics on Ubuntu Software Center?

I'm guessing that people using the "free" side of the Ubuntu Software Center are not required to have a credit card on file. This is probably one of the most significant barriers compared to the Apple app stores.

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