Where is Linux today? When you look at the sheer volume of blogs, posts, comments and projects involving it you can easily see that the world of Linux (and indeed FOSS) is gathering pace. I wonder if you, as I did, first dipping your foot into the waters of FOSS by using an alternative to a traditional Microsoft package, then plunging into the FOSS world when you realized that actually Microsoft is not required for you to be productive and indeed enjoy your computing experience.
Of course this attitude seems to be emulated in other platforms, look at the mobile phone market and its diverse solutions. Look at whats popular in the mobile world. Today as we see more web based apps, more cross platform languages and dev kits I refer yet again to comments I made a few months back “Are games the last bastion of salvation for Windows?” I think its fair to say there are many Windows users (who are not gamers) who cite a single package as the reason that they use Windows. In my experience that one package is often Photoshop. If the rumblings come to fruition then I think Microsoft has got something to worry about.
The Ubuntu forums are running a survey about the option of having proprietary software in their software center for users to purchase if they wish. Whats interesting is the survey mentions Adobe Photoshop. Now whilst this is not conclusive proof it will be part of Ubuntu software center in the future, it does raise some interesting points about its viability and its worth to Ubuntu and you should consider that many users will already be using proprietary software, albeit gfx card drivers. You can see that survey here, It says:
We are trying to gather preferences for the apps that users would like to see in upcoming version of Ubuntu. While we all believe in the power of open source applications we are also very keen that users should get to choose the software they want to use. There are some great apps that aren’t yet available to Ubuntu users and Canonical would like to know the priority that users would like to see them. This list is indicative not definitive and we would love to also read your suggestions in the free text box.
So I wouldn’t get out your credit card just yet.
So whats the problem?
Looking from a FOSS point of view, the inclusion of proprietary software within the Ubuntu library will be of concern to some. I can understand that point, however we have to be realistic. Ubuntu is arguably the most popular Linux distro, it has a legion of very happy users who champion the product. Unfortunately Canonical is a company and its a company that needs to generate revenue to stay in existence. If Canonical could “live” off good will and praise then it would probably be the most valuable company in the world. I have often said there is a place for proprietary software and if by offering titles that were traditionally the mainstay of a Windows platform will bring new users to Linux, then bring it on.
Freedom of choice is about just that. I might want to run a FOSS OS with pieces of proprietary in order to get the functionality I need from my PC or I may want to run a completely free platform.
Everyone loves a good conspiracy and I’ll try not to disappoint here. Cast your mind back a short while to when we heard rumblings about GIMP no longer being packaged as default with Ubuntu. At the time there were theories that it would be replaced with a Mono package and ideas that it was another “excuse” to incorporate more Mono dependency into Ubuntu/Gnome. I have to admit I did have my suspicions. Could it be that GIMP is to be removed in order to give users the option of installing a proprietary package instead? Canonical will presumably make money from the sale of any software and it may be a case of “lets not give them GIMP until they have considered if they wish to purchase Photoshop” – This is only a theory of course.
Whatever the intentions of Canonical and no matter if proprietary software is involved or not, Canonical has a right to make money. I think Canonical have made a great efforts to push Linux into a larger audience and I think they are succeeding. What we have to remember is whatever the true figures for Linux usage are, Linux has come this far without flashy ads, without wooden actors pretending to be excited about a party, without shoe jokes and even without perspiring middle aged men prancing around a stage and screaming. That to me says much. I think as Linux users we have to accept that for many people there are packages which are keeping them with the Windows platform, I think we have to accept that in order for them to try Linux, those packages have to be offered within Linux too.
Lets not though forget about GIMP though. Whilst I have said it wasn’t simple to learn (for me) thats only because I haven’t taken the time to do so (I have said that my graphic editing needs are very simple and catered for with online apps) GIMP has made great strides, its a package thats incredibly powerful and championed by a massive user base. I think if the rumblings come to fruition then GIMP would benefit from direct competition with a product that most people have heard of and many people choose. I also think Photoshop will have to up its game and ensure it offers the best value possible for the end user. This to me is what is great about free choice and diversity in the computing world.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
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