Why isn't there more commercial software for Linux?

This thread is not intended to be a annoying and redundant discussion about open source vs closed source software.
Why isn’t there more commercial software for Linux?

And I am not speaking about the professional server-sided one, or the “in-house” and personalized solutions for mid sized professional enterprises. There is, AFAIK a whole bunch.

The thing that I do not understand is that the frivolous “screensaver” kind of things as well as other creative software are not offered on the market.
A lot of these products (we speak about “no adware, spyware but on payment”), is available for Mac.
Now I am far from being an expert, but if something is brought natively to Mac (that is, if I am not in error) Unix based, then it should be technically not overly costly to bring it also to Linux.
This is true also for professional OCR software, for reference mangers, and many more. Mac available. Linux not. Or take (a part of skype) the voip softwares around. Very often the announce vaporware (we are currently developing) that everybody knows it will never ship.

Now the question is: why is this not done?
Is this not done because of the GPL or don’t they port it because of the low market share of Linux? With other words enterprises see no business. Or is there a business and they just do not want to see it?
Or is this expression of a contorted mentality of the producers seeing in the open source OS simply a “red thread to capitalistic values”?

Because if the quality would be good (true for quite a number of applications out there) I would not have a problem to pay for a very specialized technical software as OCR, or one that requires a particular amount of investment in terms of artistically skills and creativity. These software applications require such a high degree of specialization that sometimes I think that the open source model could be less efficient (in the sense that such a project will be feasible. but will take time and will run into the problem of an elevated turnover of programmers, mainly for the reasons that they have to make their living also elsewhere.
For me, open source is done because people belief in this kind of model but it shall not be forced on others as long as they do not take unilateral advantage of the work of others. And I do not see that it has been constructed not to allow business with software. (Leave apart the ideological discussion about good or bad. I am really interested about the motivational (or legal) issue.


Commercial software doesn’t mean better. Often times with open source software, you can donate to their project if you like it. Often times with commercial software, you are talking proprietary. Proprietary don’t like to share.

Now I went looking for OCR for Linux. I found a few, perhaps commercial grade. Tesseract OCR | Get Tesseract OCR at SourceForge.net
Clara OCR | freshmeat.net

To see all of it: ocr - Google Search

stakanov wrote:
> Discuss.

ever read and Adam Smith? i think he might say something like:

when ‘they’ build a better mouse trap the world will buy it if the
price is right.

in other words: there is no reason to discount the “free market
forces” when discussing mousetraps or software…



I tend to agree with the OP. FOSS is good but doesn’t always provide a suitable solution. I’ve often looked for some software or an app and found a few FOSS solutions but they may not be complete enough or have been abandoned so don’t completely fulfil my requirements.

At the same time the app is available for Mac, so how difficult would it be to port to Linux since they both share the similar DNA.

Where it proprietary or not doesn’t come into it if it’s an app you require to fulfil a task or function and no suitable FOSS is available.

As far as commercial doesn’t mean it’s better is concerned. Yes that’s true in the strict sense but being commercial there would exist some responsibility to at least provide a complete product with the functionality advertised within a given time frame otherwise it wouldn’t sell. I find some of the FOSS project very slow in developing which may not suit me at that moment so a commercial alternative would be welcome.

Well this is why I always thought that neoclassic economics is of little value lol!(I did not know they had a “autocensor” function for words like **** :open_mouth: ).

If you take it like:
the OS is a platform to sell your product, it is open to everybody in the same way, therefore competition will be hard but “even”. No entrance barriers. (How many times MS destroyed the business of small companies when the solution they provided was getting “juicy” from a market share point of view? Or since we are on a Novel site: I bet they still recall Dr Dos). So you would expect them to fight for this free market and produce at a lower price (no perfect information, so the will not reach the margin but still).

To say it with the 100 years old and IMHO totally outdated thoughts of Adam Smith (you have to think that his thought will refer to the stand of knowledge 50 years before his birth - as it applies to all of us) referring to a preindustrial society: The invisible hand should do exactly that…a lot of offer of commercial software for Linux, of outstanding quality and with a multitude of choice at a lower price…
Do not have really that impression. Do you?

stakanov wrote:
> (I did not know they had a “autocensor” function for
> words like **** :open_mouth: ).

i have exactly ZERO idea where are coming from with your rant!

i made NO stand on which is philosophically, socially or
technologically better: commercial/proprietary vs free open software

i believe it is a human trait to seek the best value in the market
place (advertising only slows the natural process–which is one reason
MS is slipping today)

imho, the answer to the subject line question “Why isn’t there more
commercial software for Linux?” is:

human nature and old fashioned free market forces dictate that when
commercial software is developed/released for Linux which is clearly
better than open/free (and is worth the cost charged, when compared to
the competition), it will ‘outsell’ the open source software available…

AND, there will be more of it available once that market is proven…

so, until someone figures out how to beat (say) Firefox for free
with BetterFox which is not-free…then, there will be no BetterFox
available for insert-your-credit-card-number-here downloads…

ymmv, and you may now rant on . . .

but, guess what: there are facts about human nature far older than
Adam Smith’s great-great-grand-pappy–you may poke fun at them if you
wish, but as much as you want to pretend that only today’s World Wide
Web economic thought is pure and sound, very old human nature still
causes folks (for example) standing in line for food in Port-au-Prince
to strike their neighbor’s wife and child to satisfy their own
hunger… count on it!


To answer the OP’s question, it’s simple: the quick answer is, “WHICH Linux should they target?” To elucidate, if you ask the software vendors why they won’t do it, you’ll get these answers, generally in this order:

  1. Because Linux is a moving target. Each new distribution (or even just an update) is likely to change things, requiring them to recompile/reconfig/answer support calls. That costs money. This is especially true for hardware drivers vs. kernel updates.

  2. Which desktop do they target? KDE? Gnome? Something else entirely? Whichever one they choose, the other half will scream, threaten to boycott, etc., etc.

  3. Will your distribution guarantee that everything is laid out the same way? For some inexplicable reason, each distro wants to put something in a different place: the locations of items on the KMenu, for example, or the root document directory for Apache. The vendor can’t afford to make a different release for each package, and if he enforces a certain directory structure, it’s liable to break something else on the distro. It’s a mess.

Pause for a quick example that at least illustrates the problem: Scalix offers its mail platform in paid and free/community versions, but it is targeted to a few specific, selected distributions. The reason is a compendium of what you see above, plus the fact that different library versions are used on different Linux versions.

  1. Give it up for Microsoft: their development tools are way, way beyond anything available for Linux (commercial or free). I can design an app for Windows in a few minutes (literally) in a point-and-click interface. Even with the very best development environment for Linux, it takes an order of magnitude longer. Speaking from experience.

5 and finally: Add 1-4 together, and now combine it with the fact that Linux’s potential market share for commercial, consumer apps is very small and you have your answer.

I wanted to check on this one before I opened my mouth (or rather, started typing :slight_smile: ) … but once upon a time, there was a broadcast radio automation system from a company called Scott Studios. We had just paid $$$$$ for a Windows-based audio network, so we couldn’t justify spending again for a Scott system, but they were Linux-based, and I silently cheered them on. Their advertising bragged on Linux’s “stability” and really pushed the open-source and reliability of the backbone.

In time, Scott Studios sold the system to Google, and it became Google Radio Automation. Google has now sold it to Wide Orbit.

There’s no mention of Linux whatsoever. (I couldn’t find it, anyway.) They use a lot of F/OSS software as the backbone for the system, but I don’t see where it runs on Linux now. The Linux-based system apparently just didn’t sell – and even sadder to me, as a F/OSS advocate, the fact that it used Linux wasn’t a selling point.

Some of this can be blamed on sheer inertia: as is the case in many industries, engineering/technical just sort of “fell into” the role of IT as computers became pervasive. Because most of us have a Windows background, many engineers are reluctant to learn a completely new operating system.

Therefore … I will personally choose a Linux version, because I’m familiar with it. But most won’t. If given a choice, they’ll stick with what they know.

And I hate to say this … but it doesn’t help that when someone DOES try to jump into Linux (especially in my industry) and has problems with their high-end audio or video cards, then asks for help online, they’re as likely as not to get a “RTFM” response, or “you’re just a M$ troll!” or something like that.

(This forum is a lot better than most, but I still see that even here, from time to time.)

You are taking everything too serious. And it isn’t a rant. Yours maybe could be defined like it (although there was no necessity to be so irritated).

Yes, I know you made no stand in this direction. You cited Adam Smith for explaining the current status. I criticized the thought of Adam Smith and the validity of neoclassic economics (as a oversimplifying model of market behavior that I think is not applicable). You should not interpret so deep into what I wrote. It is just your projection if not.

I agree on the first sentence, but it is not applicable. At least if you do not look at the “long run” and well, in the long run, we are all dead. Information of users is critical. Asymmetric information is everything to the industry. Intel was able to practically destroy AMD through assymetric information and by manupulating users choice on the market. I do not remember “angry mob demonstrations on the road” against this practices. The consumers did not care…because consumers did not KNOW. And therefore not necessarily they will “seek the best value” but only “the best value they know of”. Do you agree on that?
So if there is a hand it is more than visible all the time.

This is a pure assumption. Give me an example.

Interesting, I would have named the browser industry to show that a free software can be destroyed (by free software like IE). Naturally we speak about free in the sense of gratuity, not source code. Netscape was destroyed by using proprietary extensions and market power. The better application was not longer chosen by consumers. Or let us say their choice was made obsolete by creating conditions through a monopoly where choice was any more available.

Since you mention this (out of context but a good idea):

And take things more soft in life. Not always so “palladium-like”. :wink:

Because linux is free? And people make a living, support a family working with apple? Apple software works as one unit or group, itunes, iphone, adobe cs all fits into a work flow. Linux distros have donate to us, support us links on sites,pass the hat or something? :frowning:

stakanov wrote:
> Netscape was destroyed by using proprietary extensions and market power. The better
> application was not longer chosen by consumers.

you are writing “better application” while i am talking “best value”
and, will agree (as i did earlier) there is an advertising component
and add i am talking the “best value which is known of by the consumer”…

btw, i thought that IBM’s Web Explorer (for OS/2) was far ‘better’
than both Netscape and Mosaic…unfortunately it didn’t survive the
“value test” when compared to the apparently ‘free’ IE which ‘came
with’ every computer sold on earth…

> Since you mention this (out of context but a good idea):
> http://tinyurl.com/ya6kpzm

thank you, i made a cash contribution (to the Red Cross) about 16
hours after the quake hit…

> And take things more soft in life. Not always so “palladium-like”. :wink:

i’m so soft most think i’m a teddy-bear…you just can’t ‘see’ it in
my writing style…

so, don’t assume so much :wink:


These are very good points. Time ago it came to my mind how baffled one is, when thinking about the past. Only 2004, not even 5 years away. We have SuSE 9.1 and Novel is about to get in. KDE was ok but minimum. And now? People complain about KDE4, it would be enough to think back 5 years to get an intuition on what to come.

But for commercial development point 1) is a nightmare, you are right. One point I could state is that I have scientific software designed for 9.1 and it runs in an excellent way in 11.1. It was designed for GTK/gnome desktop but since always I run it on KDE. That would somehow weaken the argument.

  1. can be a problem (although the answer is easy, for the better desktop - KDE (that was just IRONIC and FUN - so don’t bomb me)). But often people run apps of/on both worlds (FF as an example).

  2. well, wasn’t there a thing like Linux Standard Group or similar that should avoid to split Linux into “dialects” as it happened with UNIX at the time?

  3. can be overcome, would be applicable more for the small enterprise in development (start up). So I do not see this as a decisive problem (as long as you have enough clients on the long run.

  4. maybe this is the biggest problem. The fact that the outcome will not be guaranteed. But isn’t this a bit contradictory for what is Mac? The market is not huge, the platform presents similar problem to Linux (although it has a somewhat lower speed of development and turnover). I would expect however the need to pay royalties to Apple (maybe I am wrong). Chrysantine will be an expert on this.

What is surprising me, is that none of the post up to now call in the GPL and connected legal problems on IP-rights. I would have expected this as one of the main reasons (together with point 1) to be at the base of some reluctance.
I have to admit that still I am not completely illuminated about what is forcing you to open your source code and what not.

Drivers by the way are a “self fulfilling expectation”. If you do not program them, people using Linux will not buy your incompatible hardware and you will be able to claim “there is no market”. A bit like they did with the “netbooks”, castrated for Linux, top for MS. And then they claim consumer do not buy with Linux (in fact they buy the MS version and erase it - for the better hardware).
Commercial software, to a certain extend, might be also a victim of "self fulfilling expectations. It is enough to claim that “Linux users are not willing to pay for software”. (How fatal does this remind me of the argumentation of the RIAA (so they would not have to face the real problem: a failing business model with exaggerated prices and low quality)).

The fact that Linux is free should be from an economic point of view an advantage. Example: if you take Apple (I do not say that this is not a good choice) then you are bound to a very exclusive system that tends to lower the market pressure and some of the possible concurrents. The applications are expensive but especially the computer is very expensive (a lot are buying it because it is outstanding in graphics - and it truly is - but even more clients I think - the ones that Apple make its living on, are, at the end of the day, people that want the machine to “just work”).
So once you bought your machine and payed they price for the standard software that comes with it (and that is part of the price) how much is left to touch your “budget constraint” that means the hungry bottom of your wallet lol!? Not much.

If you have a free OS that runs on standard software you could guess people have more money left to buy software of high quality.
A lot of people make a living with Linux. The business model is different. But Novel is not a “humanitarian organization”. And we speak about developing software on payment. To make more than only a living.

Looking at what happened in the German market, i still think that OS/2 could have made it if it wouldn’t have laked two things:

  • adaptability (too centered on x86 hardware base)
  • real commitment from IBM (that while doing add for OS/2 was selling business applications for NT!)

It had a very good success in Germany (where the roll out was done well) and then it was …dropped.

thank you, i made a cash contribution (to the Red Cross) about 16
hours after the quake hit…

This honors you.

i’m so soft most think i’m a teddy-bear…you just can’t ‘see’ it in
my writing style…

so, don’t assume so much :wink:

Means that I will have to get to know you better, so I will stop assuming. - Limitations of online-forum communication - :wink:

When you say: ‘commercial software’, what do you mean? Closed source apps for linux to be sold for big money?

My answer is: GPL.

There is a lot of commercial software around, but it is published under GPL again, as it should be.

Then there is a tiny little bit of commercial software compatible with the LGPL and avoiding any GPL’d code. And a lot of illegal hacks like cell phone software using GPL’d code. But at the end I think the license works well: linux software (that means effectively: GNU software) has to be free and anything else is an exception.

Well, thanks. I basically got that, almost verbatim, from various comments that I’ve seen in the past two years on Slashdot, in the Scalix support forums, and a few other places.

… not even 5 years [ago] … KDE was ok but minimum.

You know what? I liked KDE 2. There were a lot of things it wouldn’t do compared to Windows or the Mac, but I liked it. KDE 3, by the 3.5 release, was good, too. I’m still waiting for another point or two on 4.xx.

  1. can be a problem (although the answer is easy, for the better desktop - KDE (that was just IRONIC and FUN - so don’t bomb me)).

Hey, I’m not bashful about this at all. I despise Gnome and consider it a semi-useful toy. :slight_smile:

  1. well, wasn’t there a thing like Linux Standard Group …

I think you’re talking about the Linux Standards Base, which is a great idea. The problem is, most distributions vary from it for their own (and inexplicable) reasons. The examples I gave – for instance, some distros putting Apache’s “docroot” in a different place – are based on experience.

Since most money from F/OSS software is made from support, rather than selling the software, if you’re a software company, you have to be pragmatic. If you DO decide to release a Linux version of your package, you are almost certainly going to say, “we support KDE, Opensuse 11.xx, and this and that – but nothing else.”

(And yet, if you go in their support forums, you’ll STILL get impassioned pleas from users of other distros: “How come you don’t support Debian!! Huh? HUH??!?”)

  1. (development tools) … I do not see this as a decisive problem …

Now here, we disagree. It’s a HUGE problem. In fact, you’d start seeing a flood of apps for Linux tomorrow if someone would just create a reasonably-priced MFC-to-wxWindows, or MFC-to-GTK converter. But who would fund it? Most F/OSS people hate Microsoft, and don’t even want to give the appearance of copying them in any way. :slight_smile:

  1. … isn’t this a bit contradictory for what is Mac?

Remember that there are two ways to market something: low price, high volume, or high price, low volume. The standard WinTel market is the former, while Apple has always been the latter. They don’t mind huge volumes, but they’re happy being the Chic’ Alternative™ for which yuppies will pay a premium.

I don’t see that translating into Linux very easily.

What is surprising me, is that none of the post up to now call in the GPL and connected legal problems on IP-rights.

Me, too. But I really have come to believe that a F/OSS model, with revenue based on support, is the way to go. In that context, the type F/OSS license really doesn’t matter.

For a great example of that, just look at Barracuda Networks. Their machines are basically just good, reliable hardware, in a convenient rack mount, loaded with F/OSS software (Spam Assassin, ClamAV, etc., etc.), with a proprietary AJAX interface and excellent support. They make a GREAT living off of F/OSS.

Now we just need a way to convince the people at TurboTax and Quicken and Photoshop and AcidWave and all of those others who make cool proprietary apps that they should switch to that model. Just release the code, then charge for full support.

Here’s where I leave the GNU purists: I wouldn’t complain if they kept some part of it proprietary, just to ensure some revenue. For that matter, I wouldn’t have complained if SuSE had kept Yast proprietary, as their own, unique reason to BUY their distribution.

But that’s just me. I’ve never been a True GNU Die-Hard, and never will be.

Finally a (religious) statement that I did honestly expect. Fine. Then tell me: why software for Linux HAS to be free. On what grounds you base this idea? And by this idea: if a software programmer creates a non GPL software that does NOT infringe GPL, and that does create added value to the user, does he do a harm to Linux? After all, nobody forces the consumer to buy it, so IF a consumer does buy it, he does it because not convinced by the alternative FOSS. Can you claim that there will always be sufficiently well done FOSS software, even if the software is highly technical, needs years of education and preparation to be developed and funding?

By the discussion above, I would have expected you to say: closed source applications sold nearly at the margin with high quality. Interesting that you come up with the “big money” thing.

Can big money be done on a GPL OS or is the license incompatible with what could be called: private commercial initiative?

Illuminate me.

On Sat, 16 Jan 2010 23:56:01 +0000, vodoo wrote:

> linux software (that means effectively: GNU software) has to be free
> and anything else is an exception.

“Free” as in open, that is, not “free” as in “no cost” - it’s perfectly
acceptable under the GPL (v2 and v3) to sell the software. Many
companies clearly do.


Jim Henderson
openSUSE Forums Moderator

I think you misunderstand the GPL. Software running on Linux is not linked with GPL code, only LGPL libraries, and therefore does not have to be subject to the GPL. Only if the author wishes to release it under the GPL. Not just proprietary software but also software under other FOSS licenses like Apache license. The GPL is not that draconian. And Linux software is more than just GNU software, there are other FOSS licenses, as mentioned.

On the power of impact of an open OS and application development there is an interesting article on Beta News by Jo Wilcox. He argues (using a Gartner projection) that proprietary software will be supplanted by android (a linux based OS). Now his argumentation is intriguing: he expects this rightly BECAUSE the OS is real opensource (apache license) and therefore cannot be owned by nobody, therefore interests what he calls the economic “ecosystem”, that is everybody (all the other producers of hardware and applications).

The argumentation is similar to what came to my mind when I opened this thread. Naturally I did not intend to refer to the contrast between open and closed source. But what intrigued me was that like Jim stated here rightly, nothing prevents producing this kind of software, IF not ones mentality as a manager. There was (if I am not erroneous even a try to favour things like closed source driver development, creating a “userland interface” that would allow to use the device without conflicting with the GPL conditions of the kernel. Wonder what happened to this idea.

I agree that on the long run a lot (probably the majority) of software will be opensource. But I have my doubts that all needs of users will be addressed by FOSS software, for the practical reasons mentioned before.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not about the technical possibilities to achieve to program what so ever solution, my doubt is about the interest of the community to develop, because sometimes the endusers would be very few and the human resources are not unlimited (even in opensource).
AND I am interested in the short run.:slight_smile: