Ah yes...the all too familiar headline wherein either Microsoft or Apple claims to have invented or deployed (or will deploy) something so new...so incredible, that it will completely change the way computer users view the world. It will bring about world peace, it will cure the most crippling of diseases, and it will make using a computer even easier. I'm talking about...
Cue the overly-dramatic music.
The App store for the computer.
That's right...no more will the App store be isolated to those tiny mobile devices. The iPhone will no longer be the sole proprietor of a tool so handy, so incredible, that the device practically uses itself for you. Now, that same tool will be available for your Mac. Bless you Steve Jobs, for being so brilliant and bringing to the Mac user such profoundly unique ideas in order to make computing life as user-friendly as it can be.
But wait a minute...this idea is not new. In fact, this idea has been around for quite some time. The Synaptic package manager (a GUI front-end for apt-get) is a centralized location for the installation and management of applications and has been around since as early as 2004. And there are tools, such as Aptitude, that pre-date Synaptic. Now, the iPhone app store wasn't launched until 2008. That's at least four years Linux has on Apple. What gives?
I'll tell you what gives - it's another missed opportunity by the Linux community to capitalize on what end users want most - a user-friendly operating system. Unless you have had your head in the sand over the last few years, distributions like Ubuntu Linux have begun leading the pack on user-friendliness. Ubuntu has everything the average user wants (NOTE: Again I will make the claim the average user is NOT a gamer) and then some. But what Ubuntu does better than any other operating system is the App store. How could it not? With over seven years to get the "app store" right ,Ubuntu has something pretty special in the Ubuntu Software Center. Add that to the Ubuntu One Music Store and Ubuntu has everything the modern user needs. You can download and install thousands upon thousands of applications. You can purchase and sync music more easily than you can with Apple (just try to purchase recordings on Apple and then sync them to multiple machines.). The list goes on and on.
But...but the average user is going to see Apple's bid to bring the App store to the computer user as a brilliant coup. Steve Jobs will once again be heralded as the messiah of the computer. But the reality is, Apple did nothing but borrow a brilliant idea from another operating system. But what makes matters worse is that the community that idea was taken from hasn't really bothered to stand up and say, "We did this first". Well, I am here to say that Linux did this first and does it better than Apple.
I will also say that the Linux community needs to stake its claims a bit stronger. The Linux community of developers and designers have always been innovators that seem content with sitting back and letting others claim Linux innovations as their own. It's time the Linux community stood up and claimed their brilliance. No more should the Steve Jobs' of the world be able to take Linux innovations without the Linux community crying foul.
If this were the other way around, and Linux stole the idea from Apple, a patent lawsuit would have been filed and the Linux community (or the developers of the stolen IP) taken to court. Although an IP lawsuit will not happen in this case...it should at least be known that the very idea of the "app store" started in the heart of Linux.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.