Buying Software in Ubuntu

The new Ubuntu App Center is an interesting addition/replacement to the old Add/Remove Applications program and the complicated synaptic package manager. It promises to bring simplicity to installing new apps to Ubuntu. It’s main function will be to unify several smaller apps into a common and manageable interface. (Add/Remove, Synaptic, Update Manager, etc)

The Ubuntu App Center used to be called the “Ubuntu Software Store”, with lots of the concepts shaped around the idea that this was a shop where we can buy “for free” all the programs we want to install. It’s a nice idea, and it does fit with the operating mode of chasing Apple even when Apple are copying Ubuntu. But it did lead to an awful lot of confusion and thankfully it was changed to something that didn’t sound like “We’re going to selling proprietary applications and take away all your hard won Freedom” *read this with tongue firmly in cheek*

I’m going to leave aside the thorny question of weather Ubuntu really needed a whole new app installer.

fundingThis does bring up an important question though: If Ubuntu ever offers the ability to channel money into the pockets of developers, should the focus be on rewarding proprietary vendors, or supporting a Free Software economy through it’s software deployment channel?

This is a thought experiment on my part.

If products must be sold, why then must they be proprietary ones?

Why not channel money back into the software projects that support Ubuntu?

Upstream the money.

If software is to flow downstream, then with bug reports and ideas we should be also able to send a golden stream of coin to help those up there, doing all the coding work, cope with the realities of a real life.

To support Free Software projects we could have optional amounts selectable on installation a kin to Jamendo in Rythembox, everything from Free to $200. So support for a project can be channeled directly through the operating system. Or better if someone has tried and liked a software package, provide them an easy way to pay the developers with money (or time).

I could also see this in things like the Flash player, want to install flass-nonfree? we’d like $20 please, we’re going to give it to the Gnash Foundation to make sure work moves forwards on the free replacements. If you don’t like it, then install flash-nonfree from a PPA or from source (I know, crule, but it’s supposed to be a thought experiment).

For the sake of argument let us say that Adobe saw the error of their ways and starting selling proprietary Adobe Illustrator through the Ubuntu Store. I would then like to see Inkscape get some money every time it was sold. Why? because channeling software products is a valuable service and Canonical should not sell it’s values in Freedom so lightly as to ignore the nature of the products it channels.

Anyway, this thought experiment is pure fantasy so long as Ubuntu doesn’t handle money in any way. Once it does however, the questions must be asked about weather we believe in Libre Software or Gratis Software.