Ressources documentaires pour Mandriva Linux et les Logiciels Libres

About Apple App Store like GUI for Linux

Last time I said that Linux had the technology to provide Apple App Store implementations. Please note that Apple is not the only one providing theses kind of features, as Microsoft, Nokia, Palm and RIM have their own. Of course presently this is done only in the mobile space. But what about doing this on desktop and workstations ? For example if Androïd based netbooks are really going to be shipped, then I’m pretty sure that Androïd Market will be available too. What preventing normal computers from having an application store ? Nothing.

Now look at what is needed to provide an application store :

  • A place to store and published the applications
  • An UI easy to use and allowing users to browse the application catalog
  • A way to allow users to pay and installing paying applications

Every Linux distribution on earth have the ability to store and published applications : just have a look at distributions FTP repositories. Now we just need the right UI, and really this may not be so hard to develop. Xandros understand it already as they are providing in their Presto system an Presto Application Store. If you look at Presto Application Store, you will noticed that the differences with common Linux package management systems are few but very important :

  1. Only the words software or applications are used
  2. Applications are sorted by categories, but you also have sub-categories like « Most popular », « New releases » or « Recommended »
  3. Proprietaries applications ( Acrobat Reader, Skype ) as Free ones are mixed. This is not new, and the same happen with current Linux packages management programs
  4. Only graphical applications are shown, and the notion of packages or dependencies are hidden. Indeed, no need to talk about this in theses kind of UI : just install the needed packages and tell that the application have been installed.
  5. Applications are represented with big icons. The only others informations which can be seen are : the size of the application ( I guess that the dependencies size are not taken into account ), the author ( Free applications could use the Packager or URL tag ) and the rate. IMHO the description of the application is missing, this could be the summary tag or eventually the description one. However as this is a web interface, if you click on the application icon, you will have access to the detailed description of the application, the license information, and some screenshots

I must admit that I’m somewhat skeptic about using a web site to install application, I’d rather use a normal application. Indeed a possible limitation of a web based UI would be the fact that web site doesn’t know which applications are already installed or not on your system, and then it will display unneeded applications. However it’s true that developing an application with theses kinds of UI under Linux may be hard. Indeed several issues will make the task hard : interface theming, ability to jump to applications details information, ability to display applications screenshots and show them at bigger size, and of course animations effects. Now the needed framework are coming slowly to Linux : Clutter for Gtk application and Plasma ( or Qt QGraphicsView ) allow now to designed complexed interfaces with animations effects support. With Webkit support, you can even embedded a web interface in the application or use it to display external resources.

Contrary to popular belief, this is not the first time that a Linux distribution is trying to provide theses kind of features. If you look closely, you will noticed that Presto Application Store is based on Xandros CNR technology. OpenSuse have also 1-click install but which is still too much technical ( you see the entire package name, while installing an application will be started and it will show too much informations ). Mandriva also had the same kind of technology than OpenSuse in the past.

Please note that I don’t think that classic packages managers UI should be removed. IMHO they should be used by advanced users or for advanced task, like installing servers or CLI applications.

Presto Application Store screenshot

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