Purism 'PureOS Store' will be for both desktop and mobile apps, and that's a mistake

Purism is a company that focuses on privacy, security, and open source ideology. What's not to love? It already manufactures Linux-powered laptops with cool features like hardware kill switches for webcam and wireless radios. This way, you can be confident that your hardware is less likely be hacked and used to spy on you.

The company's core values are noble and respectable, but financially, this won't necessarily signal success. In fact, competing with the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Apple for desktop computing is a very hard task. Even harder? Breaking into the mobile business which is dominated by iOS and Android. And yet, Purism plans to launch the Librem 5 smartphone (running Linux-based PureOS) at some point in the future. Of course, such a device will need an app store, so PureOS has finally revealed the name of its upcoming offering -- the unimaginatively named PureOS Store. Sadly, this will be an attempt to merge mobile and desktop into a single store.

"Purism is pleased to announce PureOS Store, a secure alternative to proprietary app stores that respects your privacy and freedom. While there is much to do before we go live, we are well into building the infrastructure and refining the policy. PureOS Store will be a vibrant hub for both mobile and desktop apps. We envision PureOS Store as the primary community interface for app developers to contribute to the wider ecosystem, without having to understand the underlying technology like packaging or the mechanism of pushing apps upstream. We want to incentivize developers to create software that meets community values with the ultimate goal of incorporation into PureOS itself," says Jeremiah Foster, Director PureOS, Purism.

Foster further says, "Apps in the PureOS Store will be evaluated on an ascending scale, with maturity ranging from development and beta levels to a fully-endorsed and default app in PureOS. Correlating 'badges' will be utilized to quickly and clearly display the status of a given app, while also reflecting on the software’s freedom, privacy, security, and ethical design. This will not only facilitate trust in the ecosystem, but will empower users to make informed choices about apps before installing them."

While the idea of writing an app once and having it work on mobile and desktop sounds good, it has largely failed in practice. Microsoft tried it with Windows 10 Mobile, and developers didn’t bite. Consumers seem to prefer separate stores and apps for desktop and mobile too. Convergence just hasn’t lit the world on fire.

My suggestion to Purism would be to make two distinct app stores that focus on the best possible experience for each platform -- mobile and desktop. The odds are already stacked against the company, so it should learn from the failures of other firms -- like Canonical’s dashed smartphone dreams -- rather than repeat them.

Photo Credit:  Stas Malyarevsky / Shutterstock

15 Responses to Purism 'PureOS Store' will be for both desktop and mobile apps, and that's a mistake

  1. MyDisqussion says:

    So they are merging the apps into a single store. This doesn't necessarily mean that it will be the same binary for mobile and desktop. The Apple App Store has binaries for iPhone, iPad, and universal apps. Perhaps the Purism app will work the same way.

    I do hope that Purism is a success, however that is defined.

  2. psycros says:

    I see nothing here that indicates they plan on using a single UI for their store on both platforms. I also see nothing to indicate that their mobile PureOS apps will run on PC desktops, although I don't see any reason to not allow that possibility. Mobile
    apps can make nice desktop gadgets and if Microsoft had figured that out their apps would have found a decent footing in Windows.

    • Windows live tiles would be more useful on the desktop than the Start Menu but users ignored this feature, when they were called gadgets, in Windows Vista and 7. Apps already run on the desktop. The full screen Calculator app can run in a far smaller desktop Window and if you do allow it a bigger Window or go full screen on a desktop monitor you reveal additional features.

      • psycros says:

        You may have a point since live tiles/apps are pretty much being ignored
        as well. However, I always felt like a big part of the failure of Windows gadgets was due to the sidebar debuting before widescreen monitors were common. Everyone just disabled it and therefore gadgets never garnered "mindshare" in Vista. By the time Windows 7 was released everything was being pushed to the browser.

      • I always felt like a big part of the failure of Windows gadgets was due to the sidebar debuting before widescreen monitors were common. Everyone just disabled it and therefore gadgets never garnered "mindshare" in Vista.

        Well that and there were only a few developers making any gadgets. Most of my customers left the sidebar enabled and ignored it. If they inquired, I would disable it for them. It turned out that Gadgets were a security risk. Microsoft dumped them about one year after Windows 7 was released. They claimed it was so they could focus on working on something new and wonderful.

      • MyDisqussion says:

        Oh, if only Microsoft had come up with something new and wonderful.

  3. James Kelly says:

    "My suggestion to Purism would be to make two distinct app stores that focus on the best possible experience for each platform -- mobile and desktop."

    Brian, I'm sure your suggestions have been duly noted.

  4. roborat says:

    "open source ideology"

    One of those Librem laptops costs around $1500. Goes to show open source is 'expensive'.

    • Jeremiah Foster says:

      Free Software *is* expensive, especially when you doing things like replacing the BIOS and disabling Intel's ME. That money goes back into projects like Debian and Software Freedom Conservancy as well as paying people who might otherwise work for proprietary software companies.

    • Connor Doherty says:

      Worst logic ever.
      "There's a company that makes air, and one of the packages of air costs 5 bajillion dollars. Goes to show, air is expensive."

      Not to mention, if you looked at the site at all one would think you would have noticed that the price point has very little to do with software freedom, and everything to do with nice, aesthetically pleasing, high-end hardware.

      Kinda like Macbooks. Yet no one thought "oh, there's a $1500 macbook, guess all computers are expensive!".

      • roborat says:

        ”Worst logic ever.”

        I suppose ‘economics of scale’ and the basic premise that widely supported systems tend to be cheaper than bespoke or unique systems is just the “worst logic ever”. Try and look around you and see for yourself.

  5. Jeremiah Foster says:

    Thanks for the article Brian! Your suggestion "focus on the best possible experience for each platform -- mobile and desktop" is an excellent one. You can create that experience with an operating system that runs the same libraries and applications on a laptop CPU and a phone CPU. PureOS is based on Debian and Debian is the universal operating system; it runs beautifully on both Intel's chips and on NXP's iMX ARM chips. But the operating system is just the beginning, you need to have awesome apps and a user interface that rocks. Well both Qt and GNOME run really well on PureOS and developer tools like flatpak as well as Docker and many other container systems are available to run on PureOS so developers will be able to port apps pretty easily.

    The libraries and user interface are already there for each device (phone and laptop) what needs to be done is to make the apps "adaptive" or fit the given display parameters of the device. If you're Google you have to make Android adaptive to fit *everything*; cars, phones, tablets, thermometers, etc., but if you're a company that makes just one phone and two laptop models (for now) then you've got an easier task to ensure that you have a UI that can support convergence on your devices.

    Hold onto your hat Brian! I think that it is easier than you think to have awesome looking apps that can run on the same OS on different devices that take advantage of the different form factor they're running on. And we can't wait to show you and everyone else.

  6. Amos Batto says:

    What Purism has done is create libhandy in GTK+ which allows Desktop software to adapt and be used in mobile devices.

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