Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How Do We Get More Apps on Linux?

Dan Kohn started with the question:  Is Web 2.0 really important?  Isn't a browser on your desktop good enough?

Web 2.0 should solve a bunch of low hanigng fruit, but phones are not yet addressed in that environment.

Legacy code won't be reengineered as Web 2.0 apps - but many have been ported to Linux already.

Kay Tate - we have seen a lot of legacy apps being ported, but more so the small and medium sized business (SMB) are porting to Linux.

Web 2.0 should solve a bunch of problems but clearly won't be the be-all and end-all for software.  The further you get away from the silicon valley VC environment, the less powerful the Web 2.0 message is.  What will inspire people to port more easily to Linux?  A premise in the question is that Eclipse is part of an answer.

Adobe does have web based version of Adobe Photoshop.

Question:  why does Windows Vista have 3400+ certified apps?

Brian Aker:  Many of those apps are clones of programs which deal with zip files.  Linux has one [actually, I think Linux has as many as Windows, most likely ;-) --gerrit].  New applications should be encouraged to port to Linux primarily.

#2:  Yes, new applications should be ported to Linux first when possible.  Customers look first to solve a business problem, then looks for applications which solve that problem.  We need to focus on new applications which fill the current business needs.

Kay:  Distros are well certified with LSB, etc. so that is where we are doing well.

Mike: How do we get more *applications* that run on Linux - not just programs and products, but focusing more on users like bank tellers and the applications that they need.  We are sort of in the space of crossing the chasm - the easy, early adopters have been convinced, the next step is to cross the chasm.  Using gcc & gdb is obviously not sufficient, so we need a strategy, philosophy, culture change to convince people to change.  We need to provide developers with an environment that provides a full development environment - this is a place where Microsoft has done well.  Eclipse helps in this space although Eclipse is not as ubiquitous today in its adoption as any Microsoft development environment.

Ed  Real Player is small and available, tools are relatively easy and convenient to create media that plays in this environment.  Application writers what to make sure that their applications are ubuiquitous - and the Linux market is still relateively small compared to the Microsoft environment.  Having an application environment like the LSB should help address an ISV concern by showing that their application, once built, will run on many distributions, thus increasing the ubiquity of the application market.

Question:  If I were an ISV who has decided to target Linux, what problems would be challenging to address?

LSB helped consolidate the development environment, so it is good.  One of the challenges is the many installers on the various distributions.  [Dan points out that the LSB has been around for 8 years but the number of applications certified under LSB is still relatively small].

Flash is supported on lots of platforms, now certified on RHEL3/RHEL4, Novell and one or two others, and do minimal acceptance testing on a few other distributions.  However, the support matrix is huge already with old versions of Windows, etc., so adding lots of Linux distributions is hard and expensive today.

Mike:  He goes back to the economics of the problem.  Specifically, the number of Eclipse downloads have been 80% windows, 14% Linux, 3% Mac and hasn't changed in three years.  One good factor is that the distros now include Eclipse, which might mean that the number of Linux uses in the field is actually larger.  So the global question is:  has anyone made any money with LSB applications on Linux?  So what is the ROI model for software which provides incentive for people to port to Linux.

Kay: Most of the ISV's that IBM works with are already on Linux.  However, for those that aren't, being able to explain to them that a single source will run on multiple platforms, the source base will be more stable, and they'll invest less across the board, primarily because of the LSB and IBM's chiphopper program.

Darren:  Pointing people to the LSB site has helped people understand how to simplify their porting environment.  Most people tend to port to one or two distros and the remainder of the distros get left out in the cold.

Kay:  thinks the market has gotten better, but Brian disagrees, primarily because of the differences of kernels in each of the distributions.  The differences between distributions are just enough to cause real bugs in MySQL lately, and things have gotten worse lately.  As an example, linuxthreads is still an ongoing nightmare for MySQL.  Tools market is not a lucrative market, so implementing new tools is not a reasonable business model.

LSB application toolkit manager, version 0.1 was just released, which provides a wrapper and front end to the test infrastructure that has existed for a while.  This should simplify application certification/testing.

Cadence SW - apt and yum are a pain for their software - they are having problems with defect support on the variety of kernels and environments - it is too expensive to support their customers on anything other than a small set of platforms.  So, requested that Eclipse help in automatically building applications that are LSB compliant.  The observation is that Linux is not *one* distribution but 500 different distributions where each one expects to be different and yet expects applications to run.  Cadence is not as interested in the desktop but more interested in the server side and con

Dan Kegel - Picasso would like to be added to the distribution but it is a binary only application.  It would be nice if there were an xdg add-trusted-repository [I have no idea what this means, so I may have transcribed incorrectly --gerrit].  Dan would love to see that Wine improved to the point that most applications could run in wine without a port, yet potentially running slowly.  Then market numbers would help demonstrate the need for a native Linux port.

Gordon Hopper from Motorola:  loves apt and yum, having all these utilities in apt and yum seems to be a bad idea since it excludes all of the binary applications.  But having more of the open source applications become LSB compliant and shake the bugs out of the LSB tools and such would be good. 

Pacific NW startup, Linux ISV - as a startup they are required to make money and thus be profitable.  Answer:  LSB is really for the middle tier - big ISV's throw bodies at the problem and solve it however.  However, the LSB is more likely to address the SMB market.  Application was built on .NET originally, then ported to Mono.  The business model for pure Linux ISV's is hard - the comment made was "it sucks to be you!".    The only two technologies that work that way are .NET/Mono, rcp, wine, (and one other was mentioned by the audience).  The ISV model enabling applications first on Mono and porting to .NET seems to be viable.

Anyway, my summary would be that this session had lots of questions and discussion, but fewer answers than most might have hoped.  Hopefully, LSB helps, but it clearly doesn't solve everything.

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