Device licenses for developers (4.6 and forward)

I asked about developer licenses in the latest community meeting (May 30th, 2024)…

…and the answer was

What kind of models would you like to see?

Fair question :slight_smile: so I’ll start this thread to collect ideas and opinions from actual app developers. I’m not one myself, but I’ll kick this off with some options. (As the OP I can take some liberties :wink: )

  1. Developers get no special treatment, the proposed variants are sufficient
  2. Developers get some % discount on any license
  3. Developers get a large % discount on any license until the next release + grace period; large discount is restored once an app is working on the new release
  4. Store is enhanced with a possibility to pay for apps
  5. The free version (w/o App Support etc) is sufficient for developers

Options aren’t necessarily exclusive, combining options could be the best solution.

Of course, there are many details that need to be looked into, like

  • Who is a developer and how can the system be reasonably resistant to abuse?
  • How can this be achieved with sufficiently low overhead for developers and Jolla alike?
  • How do we take into account that there are multiple places to publish apps?
  • Should app popularity be considered?

(Edits: 1) Add free version of SFOS as option. 2) Options could be combined. )


While nice; many of these concepts sounds like a huge amount of admin (and room for interpretation) in relation to the price of the license. Whatever model it ends up being, it needs to be optimized to not incur extra (continued) work on Jolla’s end.


Do native app developers need a license, I thought the free vetsion of sfos will keep receiving updates?

Another option would be that all applications registered with the harbour repo will be getting a free license?


Good point, I didn’t think of that. I’ll update my list :slight_smile:

  • Active Developers get N device specific licenses for free (N=2-3).
  • The licenses is valid for a year, If still an active Developer, the license can be renewed.
    • Definition of an active Developer
      • Harbour “publishing”?
      • your metric
      • another metric
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What are the reasons why developers need multiple phones?

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The flipside: What options can Jolla legally provide? (I have no idea!)

Having free/discount licenses and/or devices is the natural first thought, but what about leveraging the social aspect: Jolla could organise hackathons every now and then in this country and that, providing the space, some food and snacks, and discount for accommodation, for example. Perhaps with a sailor or two attending too! Am I laying in the Finnish heat wave looking at the clouds? Yes I am :laughing:

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They’d be for testing and bugfixing.

Every phone model and device adaptation will have their own quirks, be it due to differences in architecture, hardware, hardware support, or something else.

As a result, apps may behave differently on different phones - and without a phone to test on, fixing problems may be hard to impossible.

I don’t think every app developer has the complete zoo, but I know from posts in the forum that many of them do test on a few different devices. Previously, those may have been repurposed old daily drivers, but there will be an incentive to cancel a monthly subscription for these unused phones.

Only because I contributed one commit to some project, I wouldn’t want to be treated as a developer.

And most (if not all) developers are also users themselves.

And whichever automated system you implement, it’s going to be prone to abuse.

This sounds reasonable to me:

  1. Somehow (?) decide who’s a developer and who isn’t.
  2. For those, the first device license is paid normally, subsequent devices are free or discounted.

Isn’t the whole point of the license to get App support? And the whole point of app support existing is the lack of apps (or quality apps in some cases) on sfos?

In my opinion the path moving forward should be straightforward.
A proper jolla store that accepts payments so that people can get paid, or keeping using the same open repos/chum free app distribution funnel with donate option.

I believe the first option would incentivize some people to develop and support more quality applications, while second would be nice for hobbyists.

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IMO, point 4 and 5 in combination are fully sufficient and reasonable for developers of SailfishOS applications.

I.e. point 4 “paid apps in Jolla Store” is direly missing for more than a decade.

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Why on earth do you think that would work on a open source, true Linux OS? There isn’t one single living example that it would work. Besides that, without knowing the exact rules of Jolla store, I think nothing is stopping you from from taking payment already in the existing app store. You just have to code the payment routine yourself. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
If I remember correct, it was ones tried by the Fernschreiber developer.

  1. None of the OSI or SPDX approved Free / Open Source Software licences do demand that binaries must be free of charge. Most of them even do not demand that the source code must be available to all and free of change, only that the source code must be made available to a licensee (who might have to pay a lot for the licence) upon request and this may incur a handling fee.

  2. Actually FOSS generates billions of revenue either by being paid for or by being only available under a paid subscription. Examples are RHEL, SLES and many more. Still, in many cases nothing prevents one of obtaining the source code of this software (mostly because it is publicly available); the principal reason why people do not compile this software by themselves to use this software free-of-charge is commercial support and third-party certifications, which determines the support status of software by these third-parties or for certain use-cases (e.g. FIPS 140 certifications).

  3. SailfishOS is not an “Open Source OS”, it merely comprises more than 95% FOSS. SailfishOS as a product is proprietary software.

    Please demand the complete sources of SailfishOS under FOSS licenses and publish them when you received them:
    I would be extremely happy to see that happening, because it would enable a sustainable future for SailfishOS, a much more thriving SailfishOS developer community, ensure that SailfishOS can still be maintained when Jolla / Jollyboys go bankrupt again etc.

true Linux OS?

Anything which uses a Linux kernel is a “true Linux OS”. This includes many proprietary software distributions, e.g. almost all firmwares of small routers, infotainment consoles in cars, planes etc., modern TVs (“SmartTV”) and billions of other embedded devices etc. In most of these cases one does not pay specifically for the software, but for the whole product including the software, hence the price of the software is not explicitly visible to the customers. Also, in many cases there is only a very small proprietary software component with which the software company prohibits the whole software stack to be rebuilt by anyone else while owning the rights FOSS-licenses grant to a licensee (i.e. the “four freedoms of FOSS”); in case of SailfishOS this is primarily Lipstick and Silica, IIRC. But lots of embedded devices run a software stack comprising 100% FOSS.

There isn’t one single living example that it would work.

No, there are billions; very likely you use some of them.

Besides that, without knowing the exact rules of Jolla store, I think nothing is stopping you from from taking payment already in the existing app store. You just have to code the payment routine yourself. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

I do not know, as I do not distribute any of my software via the Jolla Store, due to its overly strict and ever-changing rule-set. But likely the Jolla Store rule-set prohibits in-app payments.

But that is actually exactly the core point: Other app stores (Google’s Play Store, Apples Store(s), Microsoft Store, even some third-party app stores for Android) incentivise offering apps there by providing a payment framework, so a developer only has to provide the IBAN of a bank account and a price for each of his apps; additionally the app store provider can demand a share of the revenue (and they do, often overly so), which finances this service (for Apple & Google: “over-finances”, i.e. generates a huge surplus).

This is a “win-win” situation for developers and a store provider.

But it is a lot of hassle if each developer has to implement, deploy and maintain such a payment framework: This means multiplying these efforts to an extent they are not worth it.

If I remember correct, it was ones tried by the Fernschreiber developer.

The developer “werkwolf” tried this for a couple of his apps and ultimately decided that the revenue was not worth the hassle.

Note that there is some proprietary software in the Jolla Store (for SailfishOS 1 and 2), though AFAICS all this software was abandoned by their developers, very likely because they could not generate any revenue from offering their apps there.

Many developers asked for the option to offer paid apps (FOSS and proprietary ones) in the Jolla Store during the first five years of SailfishOS: Almost all of these left the SailfishOS ecosystem and I am pretty sure seeing their demand not being addressed at all (Jolla stayed silent to these requests, IIRC after initially announcing paid software as a feature of the Jolla Store in 2013) heavily contributed to that.

Side note

A “lesson learnt” from ca. 35 years of FOSS development is:
Free / Open Source Software has to be (directly or indirectly) commercially successful to be sustainable.

  • How else would one pay the developers?
  • The Free Software Foundation (FSF) devoted a large part of the introduction and a full section of their essay on “What is Free Software?” to the topic “commercial FOSS”.
  • Debian GNU/Linux is often cited as an exception to this rule, but even that is not true, because many sponsors and contributors of Debian earn their money with Debian. Hence this is only one example for “indirectly commercially successful”.
  • Unfortunately this is something Jolla has not understood at all: They still believe they must proprietarise SailfishOS by some proprietary components or others will take their product and compete with them, being cheaper because they do not have to carry development and maintenance costs. But this consideration leaves out many aspects as “time to market”, a copycat cannot support a product it does not know thoroughly etc. Others had this belief, too … in the 1990s (e.g. SuSE utilised their YAST to proprietarise SuSE Linux, but open-soured YAST after a few years).

Note that I am personally not interested in offering paid apps, because developing and maintaining FOSS is a spare-time activity for me. But currently it is impossible for anyone to easily generate revenue from developing and maintaining apps for SailfishOS.


A multitude of reasons exist why a payment framework for software offered in the Jolla Store makes a lot of sense, especially for Jolla / Jollayboys, logically for app developers interested in offering paid apps and last but not least for a thriving software ecosystem for SailfishOS.


I’m aware of all you say, and that it’s true, but the above is my main argument. That is why I’m so sure it will not work.
Of course it’s my personal opinion. And of course I wouldn’t mind if you had the opportunity to try.

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Just to set the context: The original question was which developer license models would be good (if specific options are indeed needed), and the background was about app developers’ economy. So I added paying for apps as a potential way to improve the latter.

I didn’t consider purchases as the Store default, but rather as a developer option: Provide the app gratis, pay-what-you-want, or set a mandatory price.

Of course, developers can already ask for donations, also this:

In this light, I’d like to clarify that in-Store purchases would not be an innovation, but a way to lower thresholds. Both for developers (who might prefer to work on their app over making a payment system) and for users.

Yes, you can already find a link in the app’s extended description, go to the developer’s home page, find payment options there, pick one, potentially register on yet another site, and donate. (Ok, this is kind of worst-case…)

But having it directly integrated into the Store, where you are already registered, would make it a whole lot easier. More people will proceed to actually pay/donate if it becomes easier.

Would this work? Probably not in the sense that it would suddenly provide developers with a decent salary. But likely in the sense that it would provide an improvement.

Elementary OS has pay-what-you-want for the OS and in their Store, and it seems to have worked reasonably well until the pandemic (covering the salaries of three people working on the OS).

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