The Linux-based $35 pocket computer now has its own little app ecosystem!
The Pi App Store is a moderated channel that’s set to hold both free and paid apps. It runs as a program on Raspbian, the Pi’s pint-sized version of Debian Linux. Users can download content and submit binaries, raw Python code, images, audio or video for upload. Right now, the offerings on the Pi App Store are mostly free: There’s LibreOffice, a cross-platform open source office suite that runs on Windows, Mac and Linux: Despotify (and open source Spotify client): Freeciv, the venerable open source multiplayer strategy game: and Iridium rising, a 3D multiplayer space combat game that’s exclusive to the Pi. There’s also a whole bunch of Python tutorials and the MagPi magazine for free.
The store has a recommendation engine that tailors what you see to user preferences – and interestingly, a tip jar mechanism (imagine a donate button) so that developers can make some cash even if they give out their app for free. Who knows? Someone might think your app is worth paying for. In real life, it works very well (see the Humble Indie Bundles). Such a mechanism is definitely the best fit for the community the Pi is targeting: pay if you can/want to, or get it for free otherwise.
Now the App Store did garner some criticism from some users in the Pi community. There’s people for and against the move, especially concerning the paid apps. After all, the Raspberry Pi was designed to be an open, enthusiast’s toy designed for hobbyists and educators. However, there’s been increasing amounts of interest from corporate sectors, especially embedded system manufacturers. There’s even a supercomputer made out of 64 Raspberry Pis and some Legos. It might not be as big as Android and Google Play, but it’s definitely catching on.