Would You Use Proprietary Software Ported to GNU/Linux?

by chromatic

Justas Ingelevičius wrote in about an Autodesk international user group poll about non-Windows ports. Specifically, users want Autodesk Revit (engineering design software) to run on Mac OS X and GNU/Linux. As Justas writes:

We have to handle projects sometimes ~1GB of size (whole districts with 20 levels buildings completely 3D) in Autodesk Revit Architecture and let edit that project for many users on network. Work speed depends on effective management of computer and network resources. It definitely will run better on Linux, then on Vista or Xp. We invest much in good hardware and high speed LAN and it's ridiculous, that we have to run windows...

In other words, the interesting question is not "Would you pay for proprietary software?" or "Can proprietary software exist with free operating systems?" but "Your software is the only thing keeping us on Windows; can you sell us what we really want to buy?" It's easy to predict that this conversation will happen more frequently and with greater volume. (I imagine something similar happened when Windows NT was worth using and much, much cheaper than high-end UNIX workstations.)


2007-09-21 21:00:23
A number of proprietary applications already run on Linux, including academic packages like Matlab and Maple and Pixar/Disney's high-end rendering. We certainly have researchers who prefer MacOS or Linux performance. :)
2007-09-22 09:53:09
Right, this is far from a new question. Maybe less rare when talking about productivity apps, but as long as Linux has been a halfway-viable gaming platform, people have been shouting for Linux ports of all their favorite games.

By and large those can be considered proprietary software (id software's penchant for releasing game logic code but not the render code, until years later, muddies that a little) and people are FRANTIC to have it on their free software platforms.

2007-09-22 09:54:10
(I meant more rare, of course.)
2007-09-22 16:35:01
Of course.

I know a good amount of people which would be damn happy if Adobe ported their product line to Linux. Among with other applications.

Linux User
2007-09-22 16:57:01
In past comments I've made on sites, responses to them have stated things like, "My grandmother probably knows more than you about Linux." I admit I don't know everything, but I do run a Linux server with LDAP, Samba, Dovecot, Postfix, and Wildfire for about 30 Vista/Ubuntu dual boot workstations with shared seamless roaming profiles for both OS's, jabber chat, and internal e-mail. I use Linux as much as I am able to, and prefer it to the Windows OS's.

My belief for a long time now, being one who cares about the future of Linux, has been that the one thing that's really holding Linux back from adoption by the general public is the lack of proprietary applications or equivalent ones that will run on Linux. For example, OOo is a great office suite, but I use both it and MS's version (I use OOo whenever possible), and there is no comparison of features and professional look and feel, especially with MS Office 2007 (I'm encouraged that IBM has started to support OOo).

I know this is unlikely, but imagine what could happen if MS Office, Photoshop, and Quickbooks worked natively on Linux (without Wine, which is a pain, and doesn't give a feeling of confidence), even assuming there was a cost. A person promoting Linux would have much greater leverage because these are names people know and are comfortable with, consider them professionally created software, and have already have confidence in them. I have noticed that Word 2007 crashes more often than its OOo counterpart, and there are other benefits to open source counterparts, like GIMP, but I'm talking about general public impression, not just quality. Like it or not, public impression and confidence have to be considered in promoting a product, and making proprietary apps run on Linux would give it a huge boost.

2007-09-22 21:16:25
Most definitely.

I know a number of mechanical engineers who use windows not because they want to, but because they have no choices for CAD software on non-windows platforms. If there was an option to run Catia or Solidworks in Linux, it would make many of my friends very happy.

Alex Chejlyk
2007-09-23 08:56:20
I support many firms (IT) that use AutoDesk's AutoCAD. We are constantly battling the resources used by Windows when running ACAD. The majority of my clients are running Windows XP 32bit and the 4Gb limitation is becoming a problem on larger projects. It is not uncommon for users to need access to Adobe's Photoshop or Google's Sketchup while running ACAD. In these situations, the machines start using virtual memory, and then productivity drops. Windows is eating up one full gb at least, if we were running GNU/Linux the situation would be more manageable.
Stability of Windows XP is OK, but in my experience GNU/Linux is better. Windows XP 64bit is lacking in driver and application support, Vista is a resource hog with even more driver and application issues. If AutoDesk would release AutoCad and 3DS Max for GNU/Linux many companies would switch to it and as word got out of the increased stability more and more would switch every year.

My 2 cents,

Alex Chejlyk

Caitlyn Martin
2007-09-24 14:20:15
Have you got any idea how many businesses run Oracle on Linux? It's probably something I've had to support in enterprise space more than any other app. So... I think the answer is that proprietary software and Linux can and do coexist and have done for years.

Would I run propreitary apps on my personal system? Not if there is an adequate Open Source alternative. OTOH, once upon a time I did run WordPerfect for Linux. StarOffice didn't have an Open Source version back then. Most everyone who was serious about getting office type work done on Linux back then chose between WordPerfect, StarOffice, and Applixware, all of which were proprietary. Now there are adequate alternatives (OpenOffice, AbiWord, Gnumeric, KOffice, etc...) so there's no point in not supporting Open Source projects.

The fact is that the majority of Linux users (but probably not the majority of O'Reillynet readers) don't share the Free Software Foundation view that proprietary software is somehow unethical. I know I sure don't. I don't share Richard Stallman's politics or views. I do believe that open, peer-reviewed software tends to be less buggy and more secure and I believe the Open Source Software model is the proverbial better mousetrap. I also believe that developers should be free to choose how to license what they create and whether or not to sell it. Let the free market decide.

Pietro Pesci Feltri
2007-09-24 19:07:04
I think Autodesk can't produce a Linux or MacOS X version because they are tied to M$ development tools and APIs.
2007-09-24 19:09:58
I already pay to run proprietary apps on linux such as IDL, Matlab, oslo, NX so yes I would also run CAD packages if they were available. Many engineers/scientists prefer to run linux if the apps they use are available on their platform of choice.
2007-09-24 20:39:48
Again, Economics. It depends on the application itself... Pay for features and support? Not unusual at all.

Hypothetical Examples: MS Office Vs OpenOffice, are the "extra" features in MS office worth the $400? In my case, no.

However, Mathematica (Proprietary, already available in Linux) Vs Maxima (FOSS, and EXCELLENT software). The features are indeed worth the $890 price-tag.

Photoshop Vs Gimp... Good question :)


2007-09-24 21:14:31
Autodesk will never port their software to Linux. Of all the software companies in the world, they are perhaps one of the least Linux-friendly, third only to Microsoft and Apple.
Ryan Catambing
2007-09-24 23:21:47
Heck yeah! I would pay for proprietary software ported to Linux. This would further the adoption of Linux into the mainstream desktop arena. Start it out with a few companies I'm pretty sure it will snowball over time.
2007-09-25 04:09:13
Where can I buy AOE II (Conquerers) for Native Linux ? Pleaaaaase !
2007-09-25 04:37:32
For linux to become highly popular it should include all the necessary drivers and plugins to play video, audio, browse, etc..
So i dont mind using propriety softwares in my linux box..
2007-09-25 05:19:32
Sure. Some of us use Linux 'cause it is a better system for our needs than windows - I'm one of 'em. I like free, and Free, but I don't get hung up about it. I happily paid for Linux native ports of some games (Most of Loki's stuff, 3 copies of Q3 for Linux alone), and I'd be *very* happy to pay for other propriatary software like the Dreamweaver studio stuff, etc. Even Office, if I needed it (say, for Access).
2007-09-25 05:57:34
I work in the trucking industry. I would have already made the switch to Linux IF the software was available. I keep calling vendors and begging. It falls on deaf ears...
2007-09-25 06:10:28

Autodesk wouldn't initially have to do much more than getting their UNIX-based code running on Linux. It can't be that hard to do since you have exactly the same or equivalent libraries available as on the various proprietary UNIX operating systems.

They wouldn't have to start from the Windows code but just take a leap back in time to when their software ran on real operating systems. The last time I used Autocad it was on HP-UX so I don't know what has been added in the various releases for Windows.

2007-09-25 06:12:02
Yes - there are some things that may potentially be harder to do in FOSS. Many people mentioned Mathematica. Not just anyone can program an advanced math program.

So personally, I would use FOSS unless it was an order of magnitude worse than the commercial software. Then I would use the commercial software.

J.T. Wenting
2007-09-25 07:03:11
It may come as a surprise to the OSS zealots, but the vast majority of people couldn't care less about the political correctness (a.k.a. is it open source) of the license terms their software is sold under.

Maybe it's time some people in the OSS movement learned that lesson, and made it easier for others to use their systems in combination with their own products without those products becoming infected with GPL crap and having to be released as OSS as well.
It may well help you get more adoption...

2007-09-25 09:38:54
Politics and economics, moreso than driver support or available applications, have kept Linux in the position its in WRT OS choice. As a longtime Linux supporter, I use and advocate Linux to virtually everyone, but realistically. This Autodesk discussion is indicative of decisions that are made every day, all across the country (and the world, for that matter) by people and businesses who just want to their computers to do what they need done.

They don't involve themselves in the nuances of free versus Free, nor do they invest a moments thought in whether Open Source is capitalist, communist, socialist, etc. They just want something that works and works well. The Linux sub-market is proof of that. Not only are people choosing Linux over Windows/MAC OS's, but they are also choosing between the available distributions based on their own wants, needs, and expectations. This trend will continue as people's interest in what Linux has to offer increases. They will most assuredly pay for proprietary software for their Linux machine as quickly as they would for their formerly Windows machine, so there is no legitimate excuse for software vendors not to have a Linux version available.

Will that happen? As I said earlier, politics and economics have far more to do with it than anything else. And by economics, I don't mean the salability of any particular software, but the immense pressure that is put on the entire industry by the 400 pound gorilla in Redmond. Microsoft's current market position is not absolute, and they know it. It isn't out of the question to see a complete inversion of the base question of; Why use Linux when the software you want to use is only available for Windows?, into; Why run Windows at all when you can run the software you want to use on Linux.

2007-09-25 09:53:15
psychicist, I know porting to Linux would be easy for autodesk, but thats not what I was talking about. They are a very close business partner with Microsoft, and would never risk alienating them.

J.T. Wenting, I think you need to pull your fingers out of your ears and stop screaming "political correctness" just because you disapprove of what other people think. When you calm down a little bit, perhaps then you can join us back at the adults table for some rational conversation.

2007-09-25 10:17:04
It's kind of funny when folks say just compromise so that Linux can get more adoption. Let go of your freedom so that you'll get more recognition. Hmmm...the trade-offs just aren't worth it.

I personally would rather the developers not sell their soul just for the kind of interoperability touted, where the pure licensing and freedom is traded for NDAs and non-free licenses with agreements between them and companies that just as soon wished they'd drop dead. Interoperability, that word that means about as much as "love" does these days, is a great thing in its pure sense, but the ends does not justify the means in this case.

2007-09-25 15:00:26
Does it matter? OSS advocates - that is, those who don't give a dime in support of the application - seem like the ultimate description of "wasted effort".

Wasn't Inkscape supposed to be a vector-graphics editor like Flash? Isn't GIMP supposed to be a general-purpose graphics editor like Photoshop? Isn't Amarok supposed to be a personal media player like iTunes? Then why is it that the Linux users are still begging Adobe to port the Creative Suite, or Apple to port iTunes, to Linux? Why isn't SVG a competitor to PDF or Flash yet?

Shouldn't they eat their own equivalent dog food, or make their own if there is none?

Plus, Microsoft has such a lock on a majority of software houses because of how much of a relationship it has cultivated with them over the years. I don't know of any major Desktop Linux vendor who has offered such incentives to those vendors.

I don't blame the ISVs (proprietary or OSS) for not seeing any reason in porting to a particular Desktop Linux distro like Ubuntu and supporting it alongside Windows and Mac. There's still a slew of things to improve upon and add to these desktop distributions, and the distro vendors have to go to much further lengths to attract the ISVs.

Finally, jumping into Desktop Linux this early looks like Russian Roulette. The six-month cycles of such platforms as Ubuntu and GNOME seem, from their point of view, to be a necessary and useful means for improvement ("incremental" is the term here); however, this would be overkill for ISVs, who tend to rely more upon longer-term platforms like WinXP or OS X Tiger, which have had over two years or more of support.

From the looks of it, LTS has only been emphasized for users, but developers and ISVs, IMO, need it as well.

2007-09-25 16:58:12
@Rayne, there are legitimate concerns about compatibility and the desirability of tracking moving platforms of distributions released on six-month schedules, but I think you may be overstating the case in your second paragraph.

There are plenty of people who use free desktops and plenty of opinions among all those people. Some, like me, refuse even to install Adobe's Flash, preferring to make do with the rapidly-evolving Gnash. Others have no problem installing binary blobs from video card manufacturers.

The existence of Scribus doesn't mean that everyone who runs a Linux kernel is actively hostile to InDesign, nor does a request to port Photoshop to free platforms imply that there aren't plenty of people who find the Gimp quite useful.

2007-09-28 10:10:52
I think the more important question is: Can Autodesk (or Intuit) write a program that behaves correctly in any OS. As deep as Autodesk is buried in M$'s API's they still can't get the software to meet logo requirements for Windows XP or Windows VISTA, due to their in-ability to correctly handle roaming and mandatory profiles and requiring their software be run as an administrator

Much more than AutoCAD, REVIT, or QuickBooks for Linux, I believe that a WELL BEHAVED CAD, architecture, or SMB accounting package (OSS or even proprietary) would go a long way towards promoting Linux adoption.

2007-09-28 12:38:05
Actually, after thinking about it, those packages should most definitely be OSS, so that they could be compiled on Windows or OSX, since those platforms also ARE needing a "GOOD" CAD package and SMB accounting packages.
2007-09-28 18:14:18
Of course I would. So would most people. Not all 'nix users are FSF fanatics. In fact, more often than not, they tend to be pretty practical. OS X in particular is a good example of how mixing open and closed software can produce the best overall user experience.

I have to question one of the parent poster's remarks though. "...when Windows NT was worth using..."? I don't know about you, but that sounds like he didn't like Win2K, or XP Pro, and frankly, I think both of those systems are head and shoulders above NT 4, especially W2K. So I really don't know what he was getting at about that. NT 4 got Microsoft's foot in the door of Unix desktop shops, but W2K won that battle for good.

2007-10-01 07:33:13
I currently do pay for proprietary (non open source) apps which run on Linux.

  • VMware Workstation
  • Kivio Addons
  • etc

Of course, I'll always use a free and/or OSS if possible. But if there's a commercial app that provides the functionality I need, I'll certainly fork over the cash.

2007-10-01 10:29:31
I'm currently happily using Antidote (French language dictionary / thesaurus and grammar tool) and BibblePro (photo RAW file processing tool) and didn't mind parting with money for those two excellent pieces of software. I regularly have to support commercial non free software on the corporate systems I visit.
I don't see anything wrong with any of that.
2007-10-18 11:23:36
Well, folks... I too had the same problem. I recently went back to learning (as in School) the 'New' Cad programs. Guess what I found, Pro-Engineer Wildfire V.3 by PTC. (I think they have V.4 out now) It's made to run on Unix/Linux (Supported) but will run also on WinXP-Pro. I think also CATIA V5 will also. Of course, keep in mind I'm in Europe, (Stuttgart, Germany to be exact) and those Programs are very much in demand and use. (As is Solid-Works) This is the Open Sourse Paridise though. Q? let me know. (but you'll probably Goodle quicker, I'm getting old you know. ) -d
2007-10-23 14:40:11
I think Autodesk can't produce a Linux or MacOS X version because they are tied to M$ development tools and APIs.
Ditto for Dassualt Systemes and Catia V5. Nor will they port to x86/ Solaris, even though it's free and already runs on Sparc/Solaris. I suspect in fact that Dassault has been bought off by M$.
2007-11-22 16:00:41
Yes, I would, although I prefer Solaris myself. Mathematica is a lot more than $895 as someone quoted below. But if you need that sort of program, it is much better than any free software.