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Jim Zemlin Pitches Linux App Stores For Telcos 83

angry tapir writes "Mobile carriers may start giving away netbooks for free, and Linux-based application stores could help them profit by doing so, the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin argued at a recent forum in Beijing. 'Selling discounted netbooks to users who buy a mobile data subscription would extend a sales strategy widely used for mobile phones. Carriers often sell phones for below retail price and let a user's subscription fees make up for the loss. AT&T already sells subsidized 3G netbooks in the US, and China Mobile has announced similar plans. Carriers worldwide are likely considering the option, which lets them charge for added services like downloads of music, videos and software, said [analyst Jack Gold]. Those downloads could come from platforms like the iPhone App Store that target mainly mobile phones today. Competition could push netbook prices down as more carriers subsidize them, which would make putting Linux on the laptops an attractive way to cut costs, said Zemlin.'"
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Jim Zemlin Pitches Linux App Stores For Telcos

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  • Great.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by ducomputergeek ( 595742 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @10:57AM (#28542495)

    ...a netbook with Verizon vCast OS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by goombah99 ( 560566 )

      ...a netbook with Verizon vCast OS.

      Exactly. for most folks, and atleast initially, the netbook will be the "second computer" and really more like the "third computer" if they use one at work as well. Why would I deliberately choose an OS that was different than my other OS, especially if I were to be transferring documents and presentations I wrote on the airplane back to my main computer. For most people one of those other computers is going to be a windows computer because the OS came pre-installed on it.

      Moreover, even if my other compu

  • I hope this means more developers will start creating commercial programs for Linux. Part of this strategy revolves around selling customers the data plan which could be used to download iTunes media anywhere you have cell phone connectivity, too bad that automatically rules out Linux on the netbook. If they really want Linux to work on the netbook they first need to convince Apple to release a Linux version of the iTunes store, that would take care of a large chunk of the market for netbook use on Linux.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by JumpDrive ( 1437895 )
      Not necessarily. I would be out in a heart beat to buy one of these for my Mom, who currently only needs email, web browser and an office suite. I'm currently looking for a phone which will easily connect into a computer and give her internet access. And when I say easy, I mean absolute minimal problems.
      • Of course there are users who only need to browse the web and check email, but I'm talking about the people who own products that require Windows software to work. I love Linux, it's the only operating system I use, but that doesn't mean it's ready for mainstream use yet. I know a few people besides myself who have a netbook and they wanted me to install Linux on them since they saw how fast mine ran compared to their's with XP, but in the end it doesn't work for them because they both own iPods and wanted
  • The mods do realize the article is about LINUX not NetBSD, right?

  • by ruin20 ( 1242396 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:11AM (#28542697)
    Isn't an "app store" just a shiny package management system for small programs? 99% of linux distros have this already. What, we need to skin it prettier and put it on the web? That should be easy enough. I don't know why we need to copy something from apple when the idea creating a repository for programs and working out interdependence started in the *nix environments. Getting useful usable programs onto the computer is the main barrier for adoption. Cost has nothing to do with it, they'll put out the cheapest item that will sell. If linux won't sell netbooks, then they won't use it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      An App store lets you buy and sell. A repository doesn't.
      It is the difference between a warehouse and a store.

      • Which is exactly his point - all this hype about "Oh Company X has a new app store for their 1 or 2 of their phones!" because they forget that as the GP mentioned, repos have been around much longer in the *nix world, have better/more useful apps, works better/and tends to be free as in beer (works better because if your phone crashes and deletes the app, and they *somehow* loose the info that you purchased an app, you have to pay for it a 2nd time - vanilla repos you just go re-download the software and ar
        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          Oh yadda yadda yadda.
          Exactly which games in the Ubuntu repository matches those available on Steam again?
          Yes the apps on the iPhone tend to be very simple and a lot of them are free as in beer as well. TweetDeck which is also available on Linux is a good example.
          But you do have some programs on the iPhone that are very good. XPlane on the iPhone is a better flight sim than FlightGear under Linux.
          As to popcap games crap... They sell a lot of games and a lot of people really like them. Hey you don't so don't

          • by hackel ( 10452 )

            Those developers don't want to get paid to write code, they want to write code for free, then get paid to do NOTHING but allow people to download copies of it. That is the problem. Developers should absolutely get paid for writing code. Once. Not over and over again for each person who uses it.

            • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

              But that is a problem. A big complex program costs a lot of money. It takes a lot of time to write, document, and test. It may take a team of people many man years.
              Nobody wants to pay that much for a program. Closed source allows you to spread the cost of development over a group of users. So yes in theory you could get several thousand people to all chip in $50 and then hire a team to write a game like Left4Dead but that just hasn't happened yet.
              That is why FOSS has yet to come up with great software that

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by hackel ( 10452 )

                Or you can get together with the millions of other people in the world who need the software, each contribute, oh, $10, and make it. And then install it on as many machines as you like, no license fees, no stupid USB dongles, no upgrade costs, nothing.

                There is little doubt about which method is more effective, it's just that we've become so entrenched in the previous closed-source model that we don't see any other way out. It does take a huge amount of organization, admittedly, but it can be done, and don

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

                  Yes but number one you would have to collect that money, pay the programmers and run the project.
                  Then what about updates?
                  Also you will have to wait for the software to be written.
                  So far no large project like this has worked and people need software NOW.
                  I actually work for a software company. There was a group of people that used a competing program from a company that went out of business.
                  The users all got together and bought the rights to the source. Sounds like your dream open source situation doesn't it.

                  • by hackel ( 10452 )

                    You're right, but not for technical reasons. It won't happen because the Solidworks' customers aren't willing to take a risk on what they see as a 100% failure... Obviousy people who need the software "now" would have to buy something commercial to satisfy them until a replacement could be made.
                    You would need to have more than a handful of people doing it, too. Something like that would require a multi-million-dollar budget. I won't claim to have all the practical answers, I prefer to think in theoretic

                    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

                      Yes it will not work and that is why we can not live in a world with just FOSS software and that is why Linux is not doing as well on the desktop as it could. Too many people in the "community" are hostile to none FOSS software.
                      Games are another example of how FOSS doesn't always compete well with closed source.
                      Yes I would also love to just deal with theory since it is so much simpler than the real world.
                      I work for a software developer and we use some FOSS programs in our development and business. We have g

                • It does take a huge amount of organization, admittedly, but it can be done

                  Perhaps it could be done. But AFAIK there are no major examples where it is being done. Perhaps that should tell you something?

                  and done to higher standards than most commercial software currently adheres to.

                  How can you say that when it (your model, which I'll christen "distributed patronage") hasn't been done to any significant extent?

                  • by hackel ( 10452 )

                    If we always waited for someone else to do something first, we wouldn't get very far as a society! This is why I mention public/government services. Very often these types of innovations need to be pushed through by governments for the very reason that greedy, profit-driven individuals will never do it on their own. Now of course, FOSS does contradict this but only to a certain extent, within the realm of programs individuals are interested in working on as a hobby.

                    As an example, universities around the

                    • You're a communist, just admit it. Free market capitalism is by no means perfect. But I'll take that rather than snotty nosed little gauleiters like you telling everybody what they're allowed to earn any day of the week.
                    • by hackel ( 10452 )

                      And why wouldn't I admit it? At least I can have a discussion without having to resort to petty name-calling.

            • Yeah! How dare people get paid in multiple small transactions rather than in one equivalent sum!
              • by hackel ( 10452 )

                It is not equivalent at all, it is far, far more than they deserve for the amount of hours spent working. And we all know that, other than in small, private software companies, programmers never see a cent of those license fees--which are essentially royalties. They are only paid once--it is the corporations which continue to make money indefinitely off of their work.

                • What if the company doesn't make any sales, but it's already paid the programmers? In that case surely the programmers are better off - at least they got something. Isn't that part of the choice between working for someone else and setting up your own business?
            • Amen! Nothing makes me madder than letting markets decide the value of of someone's work!
    • I agree with your main point: Apple didn't invent this idea. However, have you not noticed the useful programs? I guess Emacs, The Gimp, Firefox and all that other stuff isn't that usable. !!!Sarcasm!!! Get real, dude. What is this usable people are always talking about? How is it that my three year old can use this supposedly "unusable" operating system?

  • Better yet, do as Flash and Skype do and host your own repository. Invest a little money and you could probably do it over HTTPS assigning a unique key to each user, bill on that subscription, update the key yearly, anyone deliberately releasing their key or anyone who doesn't store it securely gets held libel for the subsequent piracy. Not difficult to check up on... "Hmm same key, two different IPs?" Even a laptop could be "homed" to only work from your own home broadband IP if the retailers wanted to be

  • A bad trend (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:16AM (#28542753)

    This is exactly the opposite of what would be good for consumers. Mobile providers should get out of the hardware business entirely. They should be selling a service, and providing something like a SIM card which consumers could put into whatever phone or netbook they like.

    The benefits for consumers are clear. They could use any hardware they like with any provider. They could reuse their hardware devices for new contracts. There would be a good market to buy/sell used cell phones. And best of all, mobile providers would be forced to compete on service and price rather than competing on who has the shiniest phone.

    This will only happen with legislation, but unfortunately our legislators are more likely to be working for the phone companies rather than working for the people.

    • I agree that this is not what is good for consumers. I do not agree that we need legislation to achieve this.

      If we are correct, and a SIM based plug-n-go model really is better for the consumer, then it will be a competitive edge for a company which comes along and does this in the United States where CDMA is the largest standard for mobile telecom (Verizon).

      The rest of the world already does use GSM (AT&T in the US), the other big standard for cellular communication, which is SIM based. In general, y

      • To be honest.... I still discovered that most cellphones are locked to the cellphone provider (Western Europe here). My employer offered to take over my cellphone, and they went with another cellphone provider. I expected my (really featureless) Siemens A75 to work. It didn't. Even that crap phone, which I bought retail (without contract) from my cellphone provider was locked to them. Sure, I'm pretty sure that after the 3 years of usage they would have unlocked it for free... I just asked a new one

      • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

        I also agree with the first part, but I have to disagree with you on the second. It's too much of an advantage for a company to be able to "give" you the hardware, vs. one that has to charge you $500 up front for it. In the long run, of course, you end up paying for that hardware over, and over, and over, which is another advantage for the current model.

        I bought my last phone outright from a third party, unlocked. When I went to the cell company I found out that they actively discourage this, even though

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        The cell phone industry has such a huge barrier to entry that it's cost prohibitive for any new company to "come along" and shake things up. The existing companies have no desire to make this change because they're making huge profits under the status quo.

        Even if a company did come along and adopt this model, it wouldn't be a big benefit to consumers unless other companies also adopted it. What good is having hardware that is theoretically able to use multiple providers if only one provider actually support

      • by Nursie ( 632944 )

        "If we are correct, and a SIM based plug-n-go model really is better for the consumer, then it will be a competitive edge for a company which comes along and does this in the United States where CDMA is the largest standard for mobile telecom (Verizon)."

        If enlightened self interest actually existed, this would be true.

        As it is, people are fooled by "free handsets!" and all the other crap and will continually end up with a worse product as a result.

        The free market requires perfect consumers. Most consumers a

    • This is exactly the opposite of what would be good for consumers. Mobile providers should get out of the hardware business entirely. They should be selling a service, and providing something like a SIM card which consumers could put into whatever phone or netbook they like.

      Would the cell phone market have taken off like it did if we didn't have companies that subsidized hardware and were responsible for making both their network and your phone work reasonably? It's easy to say now, with a thriving market in hardware and network service, that it should be open for people to buy phones separately.

      But he's advocating that a *new* Netbook market can be grown in the same way the cell phone market was. The SIM card you ask for will only appear after companies have tried things ou

    • by ignavus ( 213578 )

      Why not both?

      In Australia, you can subscribe to a mobile phone service with a "free" phone included, OR you can buy an unlocked phone from some third party shop (or get your existing phone unlocked) and just buy a SIM card. The choice is yours.

      I have no objection to companies offering cheap phones ... provided I can get an account without a phone if that happens to be cheaper in my case.

      Getting an account and phone in one is actually a good deal if you use the phone a lot (like most people seem to). It is l

  • Great idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday July 01, 2009 @11:21AM (#28542823) Homepage Journal

    Honestly I would say that limiting to the Telcos is dumb. It is a good way for Distros to make money as well as developers. The price for the software could be split between the developer, the store, and the Distro/Telco with the developer getting the majority of the price,
    And just to put a stop to the "It's called a repository" statements.
    An app store would allow the developer to set a price and handle charging the customer and would just send a check to the developer.
    It would have reviews and ratings
    And would allow the developer to decide what version is available and not the distro.
    It should take care of dependencies just like a repository as well.
    That would be a huge leap for Linux on the desktop and would encourage commercial software development.

    • You mean [] something like this? [].

      I would like to see more free as in speech but not quite bear software to help build up linux's commercial area. Although what's wrong with just making a prettier front end to the current Repos?

  • If the Linux foundation is so concerned about the non-technical masses adopting Linux, perhaps they should being paying Bruce Tognazzini's salary instead of Linus Torvalds'.

    • by Gerald ( 9696 )

      I can only imagine the /. response if Tog were to tackle Linux's various UI issues. Why do you hate him much? What did he ever do to you?

  • So is this one step closer to linux on the desk top? Or are we over this meme and i missed the memo?
  • There are several things wrong with this idea: Nobody has ever supported subsidies for a mobile device with app store sales and it is unlikley to start working in the current pricing environment in app stores. Even the most profitable carrier portals for mobile downloads are a drop in the revenue bucket for carriers. Most of the content in traditional carrier portals is "passive" - ring-tones and wallpaper. App stores for platforms like Android, Pre, and iPhone, and the corresponding developer programs, are

  • Already in the UK (Score:2, Informative)

    by jeffthejiff ( 877347 )
    "Mobile carriers may start giving away netbooks for free"

    Eh? This has [] already [] happened [] in the UK, without any carrier-specific crapware installed.
  • Great idea, as long as:

    There aren't 20 forks of it.
    There aren't updates to the apps (and app store) every 5 minutes.
    No one ever says "try the nightly build, here's the latest tarball".
    You don't need to touch a command line to deal with it, ever.
    There's a person providing support for the store and for each app.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by delire ( 809063 )
      Firstly I sincerely doubt they'll be running Debian Unstable on their phones..

      Perhaps you haven't tried installing proprietary third party applications (like Skype, World of Goo, Adobe Acrobat) on a modern distribution of Linux (or used a modern distribution of Linux at all). From the user's perspective a .DEB for Ubuntu will install with as few clicks and fuss as a Windows .EXE or OS X .DMG, proprietary or otherwise, as long as it's for the particular distribution (think "OS") they're running.

      Tales abo
      • Oh I know how easy it can be, and how well it's done in some instances on various distros.

        I also know how the Linux "community" likes to take a good idea and complicate the fuck out of it, or just ignore the basics of what a COMMON PERSON wants.

        • by delire ( 809063 )
          Regardless, I think the point of the original author's comments is that it wouldn't be "the community" that develops these app stores - or even the applications in them - so much as netbook/phone vendors and service providers.
          • Good luck with that.
            What's the plan?

            "HEY VENDOR. I'm a nerd. You should provide this, at your cost, for your users! I think it will sell!"


  • by IANAAC ( 692242 )
    I dunno...

    I would think that all any would have to do is take a look at how CNR has done and conclude that it's a waste of time.

    As others have pointed out, most distributions have their own repositories that handle the job.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      CNR is a really terrible example of an app store. Most people don't even know about it and they have very little that people want.

      • by IANAAC ( 692242 )

        CNR is a really terrible example of an app store. Most people don't even know about it and they have very little that people want.

        Yes it's a bad example. It's pretty much the only example out there right now.

        I also think that if a company that actually sells Linux can't do it, a phone company CERTAINLY won't be able to.

  • The question I'm most worried about is not whether there will be enough apps, that there will be enough competation between telcos, I'm worried about how this will affect Free software
    The telcos hate free software. It cuts into their profit margins
    Apple doesn't even all Free software in their app store for iPhone. What if this were to happen to GNU/Linux netbooks?
    And if this is the general direction GNU/Linux is going (towards netbooks and smaller, embedded devices, controlled by telcos and hardware
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      1. Apple does allow free as in beer software on their store.
      2. Are you sure GPL software is not allowed? If it is then I would bet it is because of the NDA on the SDK that you have to sign. If so then that isn't a problem with a Linux Store unless they do something funky with the SDK.
      3. The Android store does allow GPL software on their so there is an example of a Linuxish App store wirh free software.

      I can not see anybody using Linux that would want to shut out access to GPL software. There is just too mu

  • It's called a "package manager". (Woooh! What a newfangled term! back in the days, we didn't have that! And we still wore an onion on our belt, as it was the style at the time.)

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      So can you tell me where I submit my app and set a price? And how will they send me payment when people buy my app? Also where are the reviews and ratings?
      I mean that is what an App store does....

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nursie ( 632944 )


        Who the hell cares about those?

        Oh right, people that write "useful" applications like iFart.

        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

          Or XPlane or Left4Dead Steam is also an app store btw. Silly silly people.
          You don't want one so you lie and say that a repository is the same as an app store.

          • by IANAAC ( 692242 )

            Silly silly people. You don't want one so you lie and say that a repository is the same as an app store.

            I don't think it's that we don't want one, generally speaking, it's just that the culture behind Linux doesn't really lend itself to a paid apps store setup. The good games you've cited would probably already exist in free-as-in-beer form, were a programmer interested enough to create them.

            • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

              They do exist because programmers where interested enough to create them for pay.
              I have been using Linux for over 10 years and I have been doing FOSS for more than 20.
              Guess what programming is hard work. People really do want to get paid for hard work. And people want software like that or it wouldn't exist so why not give an easy way for people to buy and sell both open and closed source software
              This Linux culture that you are talking about is a bunch of people that want everything for free.
              They care only

            • The good games you've cited would probably already exist in free-as-in-beer form, were a programmer interested enough to create them.

              Well the conclusions's pretty obvious, isn't it? Perhaps dangling a few bucks in front of a programmer might make him interested?

  • I think this would be interesting if they could get it to work on the scale needed to be profitable, but I don't see it happening.
    I am guessing (and maybe incorrectly) that there are 2 kinds of Linux based web book users:

    1) the proto typical techie who likes the freedom of configuration choices that it gives you or
    2) the person who got it because it was cheaper or didn't know the difference and doesn't care, as long as they can get email and surf the web (and use their web based apps).

    The evil capitalist in

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.