Desktop apps stores are dead, and their mobile-oriented equivalents are the future. That's the message from Canonical, which has quietly made clear that it intends to jettison the Software Center in Ubuntu Linux to focus on mobile apps for Snappy Ubuntu Core.
A little background: Back in elder days, Ubuntu and most other Debian-based Linux distributions shipped with Synaptic, a graphical frontend for installing and removing applications through the Debian package management system. (Most of Ubuntu's core code is derived from Debian Linux, which is why they share the same system for adding and removing software.)
Then, in 2009, Canonical announced plans to replace Synaptic with an app of its own making called Ubuntu Software Center—which the company at first tried to name the Ubuntu Software Store, to the dismay of many users. The Software Center did most of the same things as Synaptic, but it also offered ways for Canonical to promote certain apps to users, including some that were available for purchase.
Fast forward to the present, and Canonical has announced that it will no longer be maintaining the Software Center. "The deb-based store [read: center; apparently the "store" terminology dies hard] has continued to be a huge problem over time and in fact it has been increasingly expensive to keep running," according to one representative. Another indicated that, going forward, the "resources that were initially allocated to the classic desktop" will support "building the vision of the mobile store, initially released for the phone."
For most desktop users, none of this is likely to matter too much. Synaptic and other graphical front ends for adding and removing programs on desktop versions of Ubuntu remain available.
But the bigger item of note here—and what Canonical has not yet said in an entirely explicit way—is that Ubuntu developers appear poised to move further away from the Debian-based package management system as a whole. Instead, they'll be focusing on Snappy, which uses a separate, transactionally updated software-management platform.
In this respect, the deprecation of the Ubuntu Software Center means that Canonical's open source operating system will be unique in yet another important way from the rest of the Linux world. That's consistent with a trend the company has been pursuing for years, as it has replaced community-built applications in Ubuntu with alternatives it created itself, such as the Unity interface and Mir, a display server that should eventually replace X. (For now, Mir, which was launched in 2013, remains under development.)