"For me, personally, it was a very difficult time, because I was standing out there, trying to shield certain individuals and projects. As an example, he mentions Peter Penz, the developer of Dolphin, KDE's new file manager, for whom the 4.0 release was his first introduction to the project. "It was a situation where you say something, and it may or may not be taken at face value, and you're standing up for people who may or may not know what you're doing. But that's not why you're doing it. You're doing it to keep the project healthy and on track."
Seigo defends the changes in KDE 4.0 as a necessary break with the past in order to compete in the future. Still, he says, there were times when he had second thoughts. "There were nights when I sat there on my way to sleep, and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be better simply to appease the masses, even though it means we're going to run into a brick wall?"
What helped him to persevere was the conviction that the change was necessary. "We couldn't compete in 2010 with a foundation that we laid in 1995," he says. "So we needed to do a thing that was very hard. People were going to be disappointed no matter what we did, and there was going to breakage in the meantime."
"You can view any challenge as a problem or as an opportunity, right? It needs solving, but what matters is what you get out of it at the end," Seigo says. "And I think we've come out of it much stronger as a community, with a much better sense of who we are and where we're going. I'm proud of our marketing team and developers, and all of those who helped and got us through that period of time. It was not easy for anybody."
Looking back, Seigo now thinks the controversy over KDE 4.0 holds some important lessons.
"I see people who are actually loving what we've accomplished now, and I think it's worth the difficulty. I hope that the entire free software community can reflect upon this process. I don't want to see innovation stumble and fall because it becomes too difficult. We need to allow innovation to occur without it coming at a huge cost."
Seigo is looking forward to the end of his presidency, so that he can focus on his development interests.
One of the projects he is especially interested in is what he calls "the non-locality of objects." By that, he means the ability to transfer objects seamlessly from one device o another.
For example, "you're having a meeting with a bunch of developers, and you have something that you want to show on your laptop. Today, it's pretty hard. You have to hook up to a projector, and it's a one person at a time thing. But it would be cool if you could take the folder that's on your desktop that has all the documents in it and throw it on the white board. It would be cool if you could say, here's a real time simulation I'm running or our numbers and then throw it on other people's desktops."
Similarly, you could get a timetable for trains from a kiosk while in the station, or transfer the controls for streaming media on your TV to your laptop.
Another project that Seigo wants to focus on more is to encourage the development of common interfaces on all devices as much as possible. "We should be able to move easily [between devices], without investing huge amounts of capital, and to be able to create interfaces for devices that work within the confines of their memory, their screen size, and how people use them."
The current situation, in which interfaces are designed separately for each device, he calls "an unfortunate inefficiency. When you look at factory floor supply-chain management, it's like the old days when, if you needed a bolt for Product A, you made the bolt on Product A's line, and if you needed another bolt for Product B, you built another bolt on its line. These days, you make one bolt, and use it for both products. There's an efficiency you gain. And we're not doing that with software or the primary user interfaces. But a battery indicator is a battery indicator is a battery indicator.
Why are we rewriting it for every device?"