Is KDE 4 The Desktop Answer?
I just read an article about this in ComputerWorld Australia. The article is an interview and talks about some of what will be new in KDE 4. Having used KDE for close to 10 years now, I am clearly a fan but I am not sure KDE 2, 3, 4 or 27 is the answer.
More accurately, I am not sure KDE, Gnome or whatever is the answer to getting everyone using Linux systems. Yes, KDE today is very nice from a user point of view and KDE 4 will be better. Also, each version of KDE "does more" for the developer so there is less work to do. I think there are two problems:
The politics is obvious: the mainstream answer, years ago, was an IBM mainframe. More recently it has been Mircrosoft Windows. Good or bad, what is popular is generally the right political choice. The same is true with intertia.
What will get people to change is not having "something new that does the same thing" but having something people want which isn't available elsewhere. This is why each model year a new VCR had a new bell and whistle. Or each new PDA had more memory, more pixels in the display, color, more speed, ... My black and white HandEra PDA did what I wanted--it remembered some stuff for me and it would record audio. Today, my now somewhat outdated Palm Zire 72 does the same. It does a lot more but it was the current "bottom of the line" that had what I really wanted--the audio record feature.
Linux on the web server side has won because it offered lower cost than UNIX-based solutions and more reliability than Microsoft-based solutions. Other than the high end were there are vendors with integrated hardware/software solutions, the remaining non-Linux web servers can be attributed to politics or inertia. But, that is far from desktops.
On desktops, applications become the issue. When Linux started its movie career (the water in the movie The Titanic) there was a lot less desktop than there is today. It has since gone on to do the rendering for Shrek and others. The transition of the needed software to the Linux desktop was done because it was a wise investment--it saved a lot of hardware and software money.
The difference is that for a a general purpose desktop you have multiple vendors (including Microsoft) who offer applications to general consumers. If the consumers are buying Windows-based systems anyway, there is no reason to want to invest in creating a Linux-based version of their application. Why, for example, port Adobe Illustrator to Linux if it only means you will sell the same number of copies as you do now and have to support another platform?
In much of the world, desktops transitioning to Linux is moving faster than in the US. This is likely a result of less political influence, less inertia (because there is more desktop computing growth) and less money available. If these international desktops don't need Adobe Illustrator, for example, they are not going to encourage Adobe to take Linux seriously. On the other hand, most need an office suite and the advent of OpenOffice.org users is putting pressure on Microsoft. If the most popular "Windows-based office suite" was not a Microsoft product, I feel confident you would have seen a Linux version by now.
What about other applications? Call them niche applications. If, for example, a workstation is used for doing computer aided design (CAD) as well as normal office functions, just making a CAD application available for Linux could result in a lot of conversions. The "trick" is for the CAD vendor to offer something in or related to their Linux version that isn't available elsewhere. This is where vendors need to look at, for example, what KDE 4 will do that isn't being offered on other platforms. Or, as KDE is now cross-platform (Linux, MacOS and Windows), maybe the "trick" is that if a vendor has a KDE version of their application, that is all they need.
In any case, KDE 4 will be released sometime in 2007. I am betting that some applications vendors that are working on versions of their software to work with KDE 4. That is, vendors new to the Linux scene