Aaron Seigo on the Future of KDE: Page 2

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Nepomuk is primarily an academic project, but, thanks to sponsorship from Mandriva, KDE was one of the first to implement it in a desktop.

"That's reached the stage now where you can tag files, annotate them, search for them, and create a timeline to see the order in which you've used things in the file manager," Seigo says. "That's nice, but it's really the tip of the iceberg. The end goal is to connect all this metadata with people and the way people work."

KDE already includes widgets for keeping track of people via OpenDesktop.org and to access the KDE Knowledge Base, but future developments could see tools for keeping current with both friends and KDE contributions, and even seeking answers to hardware problems from others who own the same hardware.

Seigo calls this trend "freeing the web from the web browser," adding that "it's a shame the web is stuck with the web browser." In direct contrast to Google's Chrome OS, which replaces the desktop with the browser, the goal of KDE is to distribute access to web resources throughout the existing desktop.

"That means using web technologies in our desktops," Seigo explains. "It's really erasing the boundaries between what is local and isn't local, and, most importantly, in the spirit of free software, putting the control and the choice into the hands of the users."

New Hardware Platforms and Their Influence

The largest current direction for KDE is the extension on to new platforms. KDE has already released Plasma Netbook, a netbook-specific interface that Seigo describes has "about 99% the same stuff under the hood" as the traditional desktop.

Now, KDE is expanding to other hardware platforms as well. "We've got mobile going right now," Seigo adds. "We're working on a mobile interface that is designed to be a phone/PDA-type interface. Our target platform is MeeGo, and we're working on things such as the Jax10 device, which is Intel-based. We're also working on a media center. So, at the end of the day, we'll have this collection of shells that go from desktop to netbook/tablet to mobile."

One result of this hardware integration that is already having an effect is the influence of netbooks and mobile devices on the traditional desktop. Screen size, available RAM and hard drive size all place limits on interface design, although the hardware distinctions between portable devices and workstations is starting to narrow.

Even so, differences remain. As an example, Seigo points out that a mouse is too precise a tool for a mobile device.

"This leads to things like having clickable widgets," Seigo says. "so that if I have a list of things, I might be able to click it with my finger. And because we use the same technologies for the primary user interface, we now have clickable widgets o the desktop as well. We probably never would have invested the time in doing clickable widgets if we were just focusing on the desktop."

Other Changes, and Lessons Learned

Other changes are happening that are external to the software. Realizing that KDE no longer referred only to a desktop, but to a community engaged in building related technologies, the project announced a rebranding last fall in the hopes of better reflecting what the project is about.

The near future should also see a change from SVN to Git for version control. Seigo anticipates that the greater accessibility of GIT will lower the barriers for contributors.

Next Page: User Revolt and KDE?


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