Some arguments against “Linux users don’t pay for software”

As many people probably know, I'm a huge proponent of Linux operating
systems, most specifically Ubuntu, not only because its open source,
and free, but mostly because I honestly believe it's the best operating
system I've ever come across.

For obvious reasons, I spend a bit
of time trying to convince a variety of people that Adobe should take a
serious look at bringing Adobe products to Linux, the most notable
being ColdFusion Builder.

One argument (and there are a few) against this, I hear over and over is this idea that "Linux Users don't pay for software".

Up until now, the only evidence to the contrary has been anecdotal – i.e. I personally have paid for CrossOver Office, Vmware Workstation, CrashPlan, World of Goo and Caster.  That being said, anecdotal evidence doesn't tend to be very convincing.

Recently, however, the "Humble Indie Bundle",
was put up for sale, in which 5 cross platform games (Win, Mac, Linux)
were sold together as a group. The real time data for sales and the
operating system splits has been shared, providing us with a wonderful
aggregate data about the difference between Win, Mac and Linux users, how
much they are willing to pay for software, and if they are willing to
pay at all.

The fun part of this experiment was that the
customer could choose how much they paid for the bundle, which could be
as little, or as much as people liked.  It also could be split any way
between the developers, charity, or charity and the developers.

Some interesting stats to note (Taken from the real time stats as of this moment):

1) Current intake across Win, Mac, and Linux – $1,173,536 (which is just cool in and of itself)
2) Windows has the largest market share (no surprise there), with 86670 purchases.
3) Linux is the smallest number of purchases, with 21873 purchases, but
that is only 8153 purchases, less than the Mac platform – 30026
4) The big news here is that Linux people paid more on average than either Mac, or Windows users.

Win: $8.06,Mac: $10.23, Linux: $14.53
much so, that the total income from Linux users, outstrips that of Mac,
even though Mac had more purchases (Mac: $307172.75, Linux: $317846.61)

don't think you can ask for a better experiment than this.  If Linux
users wouldn't pay for software, then they would be at the bottom of the list in terms of amount paid. Instead that's where Windows users sit.

Details of the Humble Indie Bundle can be seen here:

Their realtime JSON feed can be found here as well:

(And they are some cool games as well)

On another note, Valve have announced that they are releasing their Steam Source Code client to Linux.
This is a huge boon to the Linux community, and while there are no
dates yet, obviously Valve thinks there are people in the Linux
community who will pay for software, otherwise they wouldn't be putting
in the time and effort.

Therefore, you can quite clearly see
that Linux users will, and do pay for software, and in fact put a
higher cost on software than any other OS's user base.

I claim this myth well and truly busted.

Leave a Comment


  • Barney | May 13, 2010

    Hear! Hear!

    There are two particular reasons why I think Linux users get a bad rap for not wanting to buy software, neither one of which, ironically, has anything to do with money.

    First, when you use a decent Linux distribution, the amount of easily available "bundle" software is huge, greatly reducing the need to go looking for software from third-party vendors. For example, Windows’ calculator program sucks so I purchased a license for a better one, but the bundled programs on Ubuntu and CentOS (the two distros I use) are more than adequate. Am I cheap? No, I just don’t have any reason to get a new calculator app, regardless of cost. If Windows had a solid calculator out of the box, I wouldn’t buy one for that OS either. I also purchase TextPad (a text editor) for Windows, but use Emacs or Kate on Linux.

    Second, a lot of Linux users select the OS for the "free as in speech" aspect. It’s a "terms of the license" question, not a "cost of the license" question. Software licensed with free terms is often also licensed for no cost, but that’s simply correlation, not any sort of causal relationship. For example, emacs has always carried a free license (the GPL and it’s precursors), but was initially distributed at a monetary cost (to cover Stallman’s expenses).

    I personally look for options with the best ROI. Sometimes that includes considering license terms (e.g., free or not), but usually it’s purely about monetary cost vs. feature set. The Linux ecosystem is different than Mac or Windows. But I think you’re exactly right, Linux users don’t avoid paying for software, just the opposite. With Linux money takes a back seat to other considerations, and it ends up that a lot of times zero-cost is the better choice anyway. But I know I’d happily plunk down my own cash for CFBuilder instead of using CFEclipse for free.

  • Peter Robertson | May 16, 2010

    Mark, that’s a great piece of research, and unlike the usual ‘Market Research’ where people report on what they ‘would’ do, this actually measured real behaviours. Compelling.

  • brett | June 2, 2010

    Hey Mark, I’ve seen you around at a few seminars always a good listen thank you. I guess one thing for me, is they offer a linux developer version. Surely that would imply that people want to develop on linux. Why offer a linux development server if your not going to provide the ide to go with it? I’m interested as I’ve seen you with your ubuntu distro, about how you use linux as a CF developer. Would make for an interesting read (at least for me). Maybe it will start to spread the linux benefits out there to the CF community..

  • TJ Downes | June 22, 2010

    Hey Mark, good post. While I do not disagree with your points, I think the real issue is the number of Linux users who also use Adobe products. It seems it would make sense if the user base was there, but I personally know very few people who use Linux on a day to day basis. So the cost of developing Linux tooling may not be justified. Also, by building the Linux tooling, do they really gain a significant number of new customers, or are they just shuffling existing users from one OS to another?

  • Jamie Krug | June 23, 2010

    @Mark: Awesome! Great to see some hard facts to back up the busting of this myth!

    Before I even started begging Adobe for a Linux version of ColdFusion Builder, I was begging for a Linux version of Flex Builder. I "put my money where my mouth is" by purchasing IntelliJ IDEA (Ultimate) when I had to work on my first Flex project. There’s a CFML plugin growing as well, so IntelliJ IDEA been my primary IDE for Flex, Java, Groovy and CFML development for over a year now.

    @TJ: Respectfully, I think the "number of Linux users who also use Adobe products" is the worst argument of all. In fact, it’s an oxymoron–if a product for Linux does not exist, how can you argue that you’re not going to make one because nobody on Linux is using it??? (Ignoring the fact that Mark went so far as to hack around enough to get CF Builder Beta working on Linux:)

    There are tons of Java developers and others using Linux as their primary OS. They can’t even consider non-existent Adobe products, and I just don’t buy in to the idea of waiting to "hear enough noise" before taking action. If a development shop is weighing options, and would like to use ColdFusion, but sees the ColdFusion Builder IDE unavailable to all of their developers (using Linux desktops), how much time will they spend pleading with Adobe before they get on with their business and instead opt for PHP or Ruby or Groovy or Scala…?

    The latest Eclipse Community Survey ( shows nearly a third (33%) of developers using Linux as their primary development OS, which is a 20% increase in just 3 years (Windows showed a decrease from 74% to 58% over the same period). IMO, that is a whole lot of developers that are highly unlikely to adopt Flex of ColdFusion due to Adobe’s lack of IDE support (not to mention the still lacking performance/support of Flash Player and AIR on 64-bit).

    *Would* those developers adopt ColdFusion or Flex, if given the opportunity? Again, it’s complete speculation, and you certainly can’t argue based on lack of "Linux users who also use Adobe products" (again, it’s an oxymoron). The only bit of evidence I’m aware of is this request for Flex Builder on Linux:

    One may argue that the number of votes for this issue (685, ATM) is not enough to justify the investment by Adobe, but this is a very narrow judgement. I think it’s reasonable to assume that there may be a very large number of developers absent from that vote count simply because they fall into one or more of the following situations: don’t know about this issue tracker, don’t feel like creating (yet another) login for JIRA just to login and vote on the issue; are not a decision-maker for their company/development team; are simply jaded and frustrated by the situation. If you read through some of the very many comments, you’ll also find lots of folks stating that they’d be more than happy to pay good money for a Flex Builder for Linux. There are also lots of decision-makers commenting about sizable development teams on Linux desktops, and they’d buy licenses for the whole team (good example of one comment/vote that might actually represent many more potential product sales).

    Mark said he’s a huge proponent of Ubuntu, "not only because its open source, and free, but mostly because I honestly believe it’s the best operating system I’ve ever come across." I could not agree more! I think there’s also some myths around software availability/quality for Linux desktops, but I’ve been using Ubuntu as my sole development environment for two years and the *only* limitations I’ve come across can, unfortunately, be traced back to Adobe: 1) Adobe provides no Linux IDE for ColdFusion (IntelliJ IDEA is acceptable, and will hopefully grow, but I’d love to have CF Builder!); 2) Adobe provides no Linux IDE for Flext (fortunately, IntelliJ IDEA is quite excellent!); 3) Flash Player is now decent on Linux, even 64-bit, but it’s still far from perfect and a bit behind the Mac/Windows versions; 2) AIR is nearly useless/non-existent, IMO, at this point for Linux desktop users, because there’s no 64-bit support (unless you jump through hoops of absurdity every time you upgrade AIR or your OS:; 4) Adobe Connect has no Linux support for presenting, and the viewer is very buggy (that may be related to Flash Player bugginess).

    Again, the fact that there’s as much "noise" for more Adobe love, from the Linux community, despite all the challenges today, should be taken as a very positive response and a lot of potential Adobe business (albeit rather subjective). Okay, I’ve rambled enough. I remain passionate about what Adobe *could* do and how much potential there is in the Linux developer community, and I hope to remain a very *positive* nagging voice out here 😉 Thanks again, Mark!

  • TJ Downes | June 23, 2010

    Jamie, I should have clarified my statement with "using ColdFusion Server".

    I would be willing to be that Adobe has done many surveys and asked people what OS they primarily use for development, and seen those numbers come up short. I would also be willing to bet they’ve done further market research on the topic.

    It is my opinion that a developer would not refuse to use a platform for lack of adequate tooling. After all, CF developers have been without adequate tooling for years until recently, and I started doing HTML with notepad many years ago. I think if there were a demand for the tooling on Linux we would see many more people speaking up for it.

    The reason I speak up about this is that I would prefer to see Adobe spend their budgets on improving the existing tooling rather than developing new tooling for an unknown market. But I have no hard facts there isn’t a market, so all this is speculation.

  • Jamie Krug | June 23, 2010

    @TJ: I certainly see where you’re coming from, but I’m leaning the other way with my speculation 😉 I also realize that we’re both agreeing to a certain amount of speculation here, but if I may, again respectfully, reply…

    Re: "I would be willing to be that Adobe has done many surveys and asked people what OS they primarily use for development, and seen those numbers come up short." While this may be true, I’ve always been on the lookout for such opportunities to provide feedback, and they’re few and far between. I haven’t seen anything focused on this question in recent memory, though it has been a quick question among certain surveys from Adobe. That said, the folks taking those surveys tend to already be strong proponents of Adobe products, hence being aware of the survey to begin with. And the untapped portion of the Linux development community is unlikely participating in such surveys. If you’re referring to more general surveys (not necessarily one put out directly by Adobe), I think the Eclipse Foundation one I mentioned earlier is a prime example, and that shows Linux as primary development environment at 33% and Windows at 58%–not a huge gap, right?

    Re: "I would also be willing to bet they’ve done further market research on the topic." Maybe so, but again any research that’s available appears to show enough potential, IMO. The Eclipse survey speaks strongly. The JIRA issue requesting Flex Builder for Linux (and there’s one for CF Builder too) is initiated by a community member and has received rather strong response (again, more so when considering it’s not real easy to find/register/vote).

    Re: "It is my opinion that a developer would not refuse to use a platform for lack of adequate tooling." Might not "refuse," but certainly won’t help *attract* when there are plenty of alternatives (including some completely free). And if a developer is already strongly invested and very happy with a Linux desktop environment, comparing a slightly less popular platform (albeit completely kick-ass:) with weak tooling against a more popular platform with great tooling, is (unfortunately for Adobe and the CFML and Flex communities) a no-brainer.

    Re: "The reason I speak up about this is that I would prefer to see Adobe spend their budgets on improving the existing tooling rather than developing new tooling for an unknown market." Fair enough, but this sounds more like a position focused on the tooling itself. If we take into consideration the goals of evangelizing for ColdFusion and Flex development communities, not just IDE adoption by existing community, I think a greater focus on Linux becomes very important. Again, 33% users in the Eclipse survey use Linux as their primary development environment, and we have to assume that very few of them are currently CF or Flex developers. That’s a whole lot of potential community growth!

    Believe me, it pains me to "complain" about such things, for fear of supporting any myths around some Adobe platforms that I truly appreciate and enjoy working with. I would like to have an even better sell to show folks what an amazing desktop and development environment Ubuntu really is, but there are just a few minor annoying issues that seem to revolve around Adobe’s lack of (or slow to act upon) attention to Linux. I also understand that there are challenges and business priorities and tough decisions to be made, but one other frustration I’ve had is what seems to be little to no response from Adobe on discussions like this. I’m still hopeful, so come on Adobe, give me even more ammo to help grow the ColdFusion, Flex and AIR communities!?!

  • TJ Downes | June 23, 2010

    Definitely an insightful post, with many valid points, Jamie. I think the key to the whole mystery is having Adobe provide the reasons why they aren’t looking toward developing for the Linux crowd. I suspect part of the reason they haven’t and don’t is the potential backlash that might occur for giving any reasoning at all.

    One of the big things holding me back from giving Ubuntu another try is the lack of tooling for my platform choices. Now that I am not running a business, I suspect Ubuntu would be more feasible as a day to day desktop. But Adobe already has my licensing 😉


  • Daniel | February 24, 2011

    What’s the point in using an adobe photoshop linux version when, that will be at the same cost as the windows version. Nobody mentioned something about WINE

  • Daniel | February 24, 2011

    What’s the point in using an adobe photoshop linux version when, that will be at the same cost as the windows version. Nobody mentioned something about WINE and wine tricks. And I don’t see the point in hacking only adobe and flex becouse you need it, and for the rest to use linux. If you have money to buy photoshop and flex you might having money to buy an windoes license to use it…. or if you have a good pc you can use wine. Either way…. linux it’s symbolic for "free software". That’s why software companies like adobe don’t invest in it.
    It seems to be logic. If you are a photoshop guru than you can find a job to buy a windows license and what you need for your bussiness.
    If you are an entusiast like my self, and don’t like to spend money for applications which produces nothing, you might want to use linux, hopping it will improve its applications. After all you can ask for more, when EVERYTHING IT’S FREE OF CHARGE. It’s allready enough. It can be better, but hey… big companies need to survive as well…

  • fbsduser | April 24, 2011

    @Daniel. You seem to have missed the point.
    This isn’t about a bunch of freeloading teens. This is about professionals with good jobs and good PC’s who WANT to use photoshop NATIVELLY in Linux because they consider Linux a better platform (more stable, not affected by malware, more secure, faster, have better performance, uses less system resources) than Windows (you know, malware, viruses, crashes, BSOD’s, the usual).
    These people doesn’t use Linux because of the (lack of) cost, they use it because it works better than Windows, and they are willing to pay for photoshop because it works better than The GIMP.