One aspect of Linux distributions that we haven't done a good job of promoting is their use of package management and software repositories. For instance, we tend to refer to this using terms like "package management" and "software repositories" which don't mean anything to regular users. In the meantime, over the years people trying to use Linux often find that installing software is hard. This is mostly because they do not RTFM, and they try to follow the more difficult methods they learned for Windows and the Mac. It is also because the first things many users want to install are proprietary software like Flash, which can't use the standard methods for installing free software.
What the iPhone's App Store and Google's Android Market are going to do is get people used to the convenience of selecting and installing software from a central repository. Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and other Linux distros have had the same thing for years, with one significant advantage -- by default, everything in their "store" is free. So this is a marketing opportunity for free software, if we can take advantage of it.
I completely agree with your analysis! Linux distros have had centralized software repositories since... well.. always. But, as always, in the open source world, the problem does not come from the technology (all the greatest technologies are available in opensource) but from the fact that these technologies almost never succeed in reaching the "normal" end user.
Package management, repositories are just great! But without a powerful end user interface that transmit all this power into the end users' hands, then the impact is 0.
I'm glad you just blogged on this because I think we share the same view on the subject and this is why, with a friend, we decided to launch a website called allmyapps.com and we like to refer to it as the first app store for linux.
We designed it to really provide the "normal" (read "my mom") enduser who's discovering linux, with a super easy, yet powerful, tool to discover new apps and to install them in 1 clic, leveraging open source technologies that have been lying around until now.
I thought you might be interested to check it out, and if you have any feedbacks you'd like to share, then do not hesitate to contact me.
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