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Novell's open-source app store: We've heard this one before

Novell reportedly will be the newest member of the Apple App Store clone club, but its open-source shop would be even less necessary than those other clones.

I've written recently about the stampede of companies desperate to replicate Apple's success with its iPhone-focused App Store ("Apple App Store clone wars reach fever pitch"), but it appears the stampede is not yet complete. Novell, according to an article in PC Pro and further covered by my colleague Dave Rosenberg, is considering launching its own App Store for open-source applications.

There's just one hitch: we already have one.

In fact, we have several. Google Code, SourceForge, Code Haus, and other open-source code repositories already freely provide open-source applications. Beyond this, Red Hat tried to do a one-click installation experience with Red Hat Exchange (RHX) back in 2007. It didn't work as planned.

Holger Dyroff, vice president of business development at Novell, thinks cost will separate its open-source application store from the crowd, as he told PC Pro:

On the user end, all they'll see is an open-source applications store with one-click downloads of new software. Unlike the other stores though, they won't have to pay for any of those applications, which will be very attractive.

But this almost seems counterproductive for Novell. For years open-source companies have had to combat the idea that "open source" is synonymous with "free." I doubt Novell's investors will be happy if the market reacts in the way Dyroff expects and comes to believe open source can be had for free.

The only thing an open-source application store could do, over and above the various code repositories already serving up applications, is make the installation experience seamless, but this will never be feasible with enterprise applications, which always require a certain amount of customization and fine-tuning, whether proprietary or open source.

In sum, this appears to be an attempt by Novell to join the Apple App Store herd, minus the Apple App Store brand and momentum. Novell has been growing its Linux business consistently each quarter, but an open-source applications store is unlikely to move the needle further. While I'd love to see it succeed, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.