Linked by Kostis Kapelonis on Sat 14th May 2011 15:43 UTC
General Development Application stores are growing everywhere like mushrooms. While users have initially embraced application stores because of the ease they offer with application installation, developers have several complaints. Division of profits from paid application and ineffectiveness of the screening process are among the major issues. Are application stores the best distribution channel possible? Can they satisfy both developers and users?
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App stores vs distros
by WorknMan on Sat 14th May 2011 16:54 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

Users will be able to install illegally applications outside the application store with the same ease (i.e without any technical know-how, think Aunt Tillie) with no external help for the "jailbreaking" process.


Users can already do this now with Android. You simply tick an option in settings and you can side-load the APK files. Of course, some apps still require root access for installation, but even most of those are available in the Android marketplace, so that's not exactly the same thing.

Installing applications outside of the application store will be completely legal and most users will have a mixture of applications (official and non-official).


As stated before, you can already do this on Android. You have to jailbreak to do this on iOS, but it is no longer illegal to do so in the US (thanks to the Library of Congress).

Basically users will select application stores as Linux users choose deb/rpm repositories (ability to use other ones apart from the "official" one).


You can already choose between multiple app stores on Android and iOS (though iOS still requires jailbreaking). On Android, there's the Amazon app store and on iOS, there's is Cydia (and probably a few more I don't know about).

As for the Linux distro repositories, they are not without their problems either. For example, if Android worked like most Linux distros do, each individual phone would have its own app store, and when a new app/version of an old app was released, you'd have volunteers for each phone to package up that app and make it available on the phone's app store. If you are an end user of the phone, you may find that the app you want is not on your app store, or is several versions behind what's current, so you've either got to try and figure out how to side-load it, or you just have to beg and plead to the distro gods to update your app..

On the other hand, I haven't messed with the whole Linux distro thing in years, so maybe it has gotten better over time than how I remember it. *shrug* My point is that each of these two models has its pros and cons, and maybe we can find the right balance over time.

One last thing to note is how the author talks about apps being removed from these app stores, but I have a hard time believing that if some big company was threatening a lawsuit because of some app that was on a Linux distro was infringing on their copyright (or whatever), those overseeing the repository wouldn't take it down in a heartbeat.

Edited 2011-05-14 16:56 UTC

Reply Score: 5

jabbotts Member since:
2007-09-06

Having to jailbreak is the primary point. With Idevices, it's not just an option toggle (Android) or easy easter-egg standard across all devices running the OS (Maemo). The fact that one must jailbreak the device and potentially repeatedly with a new method every OS update sucks.

In terms of android, perhaps rooting is different from adding third party repositories. In terms of rooting, that used to be a different method per Android version and hardware version combination if it's not still. The issue isn't just the ability to add third party repositories but the ability to have complete access to one's own purchased property. Android also suffers from poor repository management. I'd much rather see a two or three teer vetting process like Debian's unstable/testing/stable or Maemo's development/testing/production methods.

"if Android worked like most Linux distros do, each individual phone would have its own app store"

Currently, repositories differ by distribution not device they happen to be on. Debian repositories don't care if they are accessed from my server, desktop, notebook or MID. Ubuntu is a fork of Debian and had to provide it's own repositories. Mint is a fork of Debian and it had to provide it's own repositories. Mandriva does not draw on Red Hat's repositories. These are all separate distributions managed by different organizations and should indeed draw on repositories also managed by those organizations. If you want to work within the distribution, you work within it's repositories and organizational structure. There are very good reasons why that is.

Repositories are a defining and competitive attribute of the distribution. Customer service, product quality control, available software.. all there. Does the distro have good quality control (Debian's three stages) or is it less competitive on that aspect (Gentoo's IRC Server incident). Versions of programs are not the latest and greatest (Debian Stable), consider a distribution that provides more bleeding edge with resulting less stability (Ubuntu forked from Debian Testing/Unstable branches). Competitive or defining attributes are not foreign to any other product category either; cars, tooth paste.. all got them.

Now, if Android where like traditional Linux based distributions any vendor shipping uncorrupted Android would draw on Android repositories regardless of what hardware branding it's installed on. If a device is branded as an "Android device" it should be able to easily take Google's core distribution firmware through a standard flashing process; let manufacturers provide a small separate blob image for device specific drivers if they must. Really, they should be providing the drivers back to the core distribution's kernel but the add-on blob is an acceptable compromise for the moment.

Vendor's who must fork Android into there own one-off version, as has been sadly popular, should indeed be providing there own repositories. They fork the distribution away from the parent distro, they accept the responsibility of managing there own repositories and loss of use of the "Android" branding. It may actually work out in the end user's favor by adding another bit of motivation to stick with Google's parent distribution rather than go it alone for branding or malware purposes (like Motorola's logic bomb modification).

In my time, I've not really seen packages pulled from a repository under threat of lagall action. The only example I can really think of is probably a decade old when Red Hat stopped including the mp3 codec and similar multi-media related packaged (RH3'ish?). It made the distro more appropriate for business use and I found Mandrake which was more appropriate for home use.

There are still distributions that deliver limited or poorly managed repositories and that's what makes other distributions preferable choices. Ubuntu draws on Debian's testing/unstable branches and makes poor security related choices about default configurations so I use a distro that better supports my preferences for stability and strong security related defaults. Want a phenomenal set of "control panel" type utilities; Mandriva's draketools make it a very attractive new user distribution (hopefully they've improved on the overall distribution management or the Magea folks do better).

In short though, if Android was like traditional distributions, it would probably be much improved over the current mess of fragmentation caused by what should be separate fork distributions continuing to claim branding of the parent distribution while delivering one-off modified versions.

Reply Parent Score: 3

WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

Repositories are a defining and competitive attribute of the distribution. Customer service, product quality control, available software.. all there.


IMHO, that's a pretty bad way to differentiate distros, and a pretty bad reason to have so many different ones. If we're going to play this game, I'd rather see 3 different distros with very solid repositories, rather than 900. Or better yet, how about 1 distro with 1 repository? One of the points made in the article is that having a single app store exposes a single point of failure, but if each distro has its own repository, how is this any different? Sure, maybe you can edit your apt.sources file and add in a couple more, but do you really want to explain to my mom how to do that?

Versions of programs are not the latest and greatest (Debian Stable), consider a distribution that provides more bleeding edge with resulting less stability (Ubuntu forked from Debian Testing/Unstable branches).


Yeah, good luck explaining that to the average iPhone owners. This kind of bullshit is EXACTLY why Linux on the desktop never gained any significant marketshare.

If a device is branded as an "Android device" it should be able to easily take Google's core distribution firmware through a standard flashing process; let manufacturers provide a small separate blob image for device specific drivers if they must. Really, they should be providing the drivers back to the core distribution's kernel but the add-on blob is an acceptable compromise for the moment.


Agreed 100%.

Vendor's who must fork Android into there own one-off version, as has been sadly popular, should indeed be providing there own repositories. They fork the distribution away from the parent distro, they accept the responsibility of managing there own repositories and loss of use of the "Android" branding.


That is the way it works now, in fact. If you deviate too far from 'the standard', you lose the ability to call your product Android, and you lose access to the Android marketplace. Of course, some people would argue that it doesn't go far enough, and I'm one of those people.

Reply Parent Score: 2