This seems like a great time to subscribe my RSS !

This is a follow up to the previous post about the App Center.

Maintenance Graph mockup

As noted in a previous post (that one too long to be read), the AppCenter wiki page has been updated with a roadmap for the near future. Update: I forgot to say the following roadmap is a draft, and may change.

Copy pasting here for your convenience:

October 2009

For October 2009, we have four major goals. (bold added by me for readability)

  1. Include in Ubuntu 9.10 a simple and fun interface for finding, installing, and removing software. This will likely involve:
    • A new name.
    • A highly graphical “main entrance” or “front page”, that allows browsing software by category and subcategory, and perhaps includes featured and/or popular applications.
    • Fast and error-tolerant search.
    • Attractive, informative, and easy-to-understand presentation of individual software packages within the interface (with this presentation also being used for apt: URL links to graphical applications).
    • Interactive demonstration of how to launch the software you’ve just installed.
    • The ability to continue browsing available software, and queue up installation/removal requests, while other changes are being made.
    • Better security than the current installation mechanism (i.e. use of PolicyKit instead of gksudo).
  2. Increase use of apt: links by Ubuntu enthusiasts, software projects, and ISVs, replacing terminal commands or standalone downloads. This will likely involve:
    • A redirector Web service (e.g. redirecting from http://apt.ubuntu.com/package-name to apt:package-name), with helpful handling of error cases, to better cater for people who are not running Ubuntu when they follow the link (and to better cater for forums and other CMSes that do not allow direct apt: links).
    • Prominent and highly understandable information on ubuntu.com about how to get your software (whether Free or non-Free) packaged for Ubuntu.
    • An apt: evangelism campaign for projects that already have their software packaged in the Ubuntu repositories.
  3. Fine-tune the interface presented when software updates are available. This may involve:
    • When updates are presented automatically, collapsing the list of updates by default, concentrating instead on the existence of updates and the choice to install them now or later.
    • Presentation of the new better descriptions of security updates.
  4. Establish a system within Launchpad for registered users to suggest a better description, category, keywords, and/or screenshot for a software package, and for the package maintainer to incorporate those changes into a new version of the package, so that end users can find the software more easily later.

April 2010

  1. In Ubuntu 10.04, replace Synaptic, Gdebi, and (if appropriate) Update Manager with an expanded AppCenter. This will likely involve:
    • The ability to see, install, and uninstall non-graphical software (programming utilities, fonts, database software, etc) within AppCenter if desired.
    • Opening AppCenter for all apt: links, not just those of graphical applications.
    • Handling of package conflicts and other error cases.
    • A collapsed view of AppCenter that shows only available updates, but is expandable to perform other tasks if desired.
  2. Establish a system within Launchpad to store ratings and reviews of Ubuntu software (whether in official repositories or in participating PPAs), for use in a future version of AppCenter.

October 2010

  1. Integrate the ratings and review mechanism from Launchpad into AppCenter. This will likely involve:
    • An interface within AppCenter for rating and reviewing software that is installed now (or that has been installed recently).
    • A mechanism for reporting, and staff for moderating, inappropriate reviews (e.g. those that use offensive language).
  2. Establish a mechanism for establishing and conveying a trust level for software in PPAs, and for easily adding PPAs within AppCenter.
  3. Provide the ability to purchase software from within AppCenter.

April 2011

  1. Improve sharing and tracking of software within AppCenter. For example:
    • Overviews of installed software by license, cost, or maintenance timetable.
    • Discovering software by what your friends have installed.
    • Downloading a package once for installing on many computers.
    • Incorporating AptOnCD.
    • A visible history of past installations/removals/purchases, including the ability to undo specific changes.
  2. Investigate and, if appropriate, implement specialized interfaces for browsing and installing particular classes of package:
    • fonts
    • screensavers
    • Windows applications, etc.

Pretty nice !

I’m a fan of almost every feature list.

My favourites:

  • A highly graphical “main entrance” or “front page”: a must, that could be tuned with a show off of featured applications to help the users to discover greatest or latest software, and help them with the most common pitfalls.
  • Fast and error-tolerant search: handy.
  • A redirector Web service (e.g. redirecting from http://apt.ubuntu.com/package-name to apt:package-name): very nice. Would make sharing and word passing much easier.
  • User ratings and contributions in general.

Potential issue:

  • The users contributions to the descriptions, screenshots etc, would be nice to be passed over to Debian, also because the delta would increase too much otherwise. The more easy is for a packager to incorporate user submitted content (let’s say a click or a editing windows + 1 click), the more the changes, the more the delta. Contributing everything back could not be trivial.

Commercial features:

Also, despite all the mess generated by my AppCenter-AppStore comparison, the commercial features are last in the list, and I believe that’s a smart decision. For it to be successful Canonical would need, other than complete the rest of AppCenter first, to build up a massive architecture.

It’s not just about creating some kind of pay pal gateway. They’d need to:

  • creating a webservice with user accounts (or a webservice that connects to launchpad accounts)
  • that webservice should keep track of software purchased to allow further downloads of the owned software in case of data loss or computer switch and so on.
  • probably setting up a quality assurance team of some kind (I’m not a big fan of gatewayed stores, though)

I’m pretty much confused on the issues that commercial software inclusion would raise. What about copy-protection, for example ?

It’s important to understand that part of the attractive of AppStores is that they provide a unified service to software developers. Think more about the code, less about distribution, paying gateways and stuff like that.

Wishlist

  • While setting up a full commercial infrastructure it’s an overkill for now, setting up just a payment gateway and testing it with a Donation button on the free software packages description pages would be pretty nice. That may be a well received, ethical and useful middle step. Allowing developers to associate a launchpad project with a Paypal account and allowing them to receive some free beer from their users would be pretty nice. The donation button is not really an idea of mine, it has brought app in my first post about the AppCenter, and I like it.
  • Still, is not clear the distinction between graphical apps, command line apps, and libraries. Cydia, the apt-frontend for jailbroken iPhones, allows the users to specify which kind of users they are (users, powerusers, developers) and filters the package list accordingly.
  • I read that the interactive demo about how to launch the software you just installed is already in the roadmap. In case of packages providing binaries, tt would be nice to have a list of the commands callable, along with their whatis description. (how to not clutter the UI with all this information ? we’ll see)
  • have the old updates icon back :-)

Naming

Oh, App Center is a nice name. But finding a better name is in the roadmap. Any idea ?

6 Responses

  1. Koen

    so… can third-party add programs to the appcenter?

    that would be a must for me.

    and… will this make that you won’t need any repos-adding and keysigning? when you need to install something not in the appcenter?

  2. Stefano Forenza

    @Koen: I have no clue, but the following point

    2. Establish a mechanism for establishing and conveying a trust level for software in PPAs, and for easily adding PPAs within AppCenter.

    looks promising :-)

  3. > 2. Establish a mechanism for establishing and conveying a trust level for software in PPAs, and for easily adding PPAs within AppCenter.

    I’ve attempted to open the discussion on the issue of PPAs and establishing trust in the recent past. This looks similar to what I was getting at when I spoke about “circles of trust” in http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/14689/

    ” Now the question becomes, can we somehow make this process of forming circles of trust more integrated into the OS? Can we make it simpler, more obvious, more transparent? Can we push the relevant information to the user at the appropriate time so they are made available of the fuller range of their options as well as the associated risks involved?”

    and referenced again in http://brainstorm.ubuntu.com/idea/14784/

    “Develop a rating system for third party software sources (like PPAs), and integrate that information directly into Synaptic package manager.”

    Both Brainstorm ideas are interesting reads, IMHO.

  4. lol

    lol…. by that time windows 7 would be far ahead.

  5. Sergio

    Agree with lol. For me, this project should be the most high-priority task…

  6. Nice roadmap. I’m really looking forward to it.

    I guess Windows will have a hard time creating a AppCenter-like experience, as everybody has its own installer with a different look-and-feel. Harmonizing this into one user-facing frontend will be much harder than expanding the dpkg/apt-based package management in Ubuntu.

Leave a comment