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Linux users don't buy software, but it's still worth selling

Ubuntu Software Center sales numbers are not very good, but there is still hope.

A few days ago, Canonical posted a list of the top 10 paid software downloads from the Ubuntu Software Center, which makes now a pretty good time to talk about how sales of software are doing in the software store that is included in the world’s most popular version of Linux.

The first thing worth noting is that the No. 1 paid app is Stormcloud, which is a rather slick-looking weather information tool. We could have a long discussion about the fact that what is essentially a weather widget is the top seller (it's really not that strange... it's a good app and people want it). But, right now, I'd like to talk about sales numbers.

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Stormcloud has reportedly sold 140 copies via the Ubuntu Software Center during the month.

One-hundred and forty. For the No. 1 selling app in the entire store. Which is, certainly, far below what you'd expect from a larger app store. And, in my opinion, is incredibly disappointing considering the install base that recent versions of Ubuntu have.

To give us a better idea of what the overall sales are looking like, I'd like to share what one of my games, Linux Tycoon, did during the month of March.

Linux Tycoon, currently ranked as the No. 10 app in the entire Ubuntu Software Center (for March) netted a total of 23 sales. Twenty-Three. In case you were curious, that equates to a bit shy of fifty bucks. Which means we can safely assume that the remaining eight of the top 10 sold between 23 and 140 copies each. In other words: not a lot.

"Not a lot" is actually a pretty major understatement here. In fact, the sales numbers are small enough to make no real noticeable difference to any individual (or company) earning a living selling software.

Many of you may be thinking that the recent release of Steam on Linux could have made the overall sales numbers in the Ubuntu Software Center take a tumble. As someone who has been selling software via the Ubuntu Software Center since the beginning (Illumination Software Creator, a visual development tool that I built, was the seventh application added for sale way back in the olden days of the Software Center), let me tell you... sales have not experienced a drop since the launch of Steam.

So what does this all mean? Is the Ubuntu Software Center dead? Is it worth the time for developers to support it?

Honestly...it's a tough question. And I don't have a definitive answer for you. But I do have a personal opinion on the matter.

Creating a vibrant Software Store with a user base that is accustomed to using it to purchase their software is a difficult challenge. And the crew at Canonical knew it would be challenge going into it. And, despite the relatively low overall sales numbers, I feel that they have done an admirable job of continually improving both the customer experience as well as the developer experience. And, if it does start to take off with larger sales numbers, those apps and games already there are going to see some of the biggest boosts. Is that possible? I firmly believe so.

So I, for one, am going to continue making software available via this mechanism. And my fingers will be crossed.

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