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Software distribution is the process of delivering software to the end user. This is not to be confused with a distribution, or distro, which is collection of software components built, assembled and configured so that it can be used essentially "as is" for its intended purpose.
Software distribution is often the closest thing to turnkey form of free software. It may take the form of a binary distribution, with an executable installer which can be downloaded from the Internet. Examples range from whole operating system distributions to server and interpreter distributions (for example WAMP installers). Software distribution can also refer to careware and donateware.
In recent years, the term has come to refer to nearly any "finished" software (i.e. something that is more or less ready for its intended use, whether as a complete system or a component of a larger system) that is assembled primarily from open source components.
Examples of software distributions include:
- CPAN, a Perl extension repository, has over 200 mirrors, each with over 32 thousand distributions
- Berkeley Software Distributions such as FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and DragonflyBSD
- Linux distributions such as SUSE Linux distributions
- The Eclipse Europa has two alternative distributions
Technical support is a key issue for end-users of distributions, since the distribution itself is typically free and may not be "owned" in a commercial sense by a vendor. Depending on the distribution, support may be provided by a commercial support vendor, the developers who created the distribution or by the user community itself.
Free software distribution tools
Commercial software distribution tools
- LANDesk Management Suite provides software distribution for Windows, OS X, and Linux.
- Dell KACE provides remote administration, software distribution, and software installation to any Windows, Mac, or Linux desktop or server.
Distribution tools for mobile devices
Distribution of software to small mobile devices such as phones, PDAs and other hand-held terminals is a particular challenge due to their ad hoc connectivity. Some tools that cater to this category of devices are:
- Sybase iAnywhere Afaria