KDE fail to keep up with Gnome?

The Problem

I’m really a deep-heart KDE fan – I like all the application I use inside of KDE, I like the community (as far as I got in touch with them), I like the possibility to configure almost everything, and I like the ideas for the new, upcomming KDE 4.

But even I started thinking about Gnome more and more the last days. The reason is that all the news about exciting and existing new features on Linux desktops I got in the last few weeks were about Gnome: the NetworkManager from Red Hat, beagle from Novell, the just-work-experience which comes with Ubuntu – it was all provided for or around Gnome.
And especially in the last days, when Novell released it’s bunch of ideas and code around Xgl, and showed how the’ve implemented it in Gnome, my heart sunk a little bit more.
Don’t misunderstand me: I like it that Gnome has a fast and rapid development, that they show the world which power Open Source/Free Software really has – but my dream is that Windows and MacOS are smashed between Gnome and KDE, while these both competete in a friendly and mutual pushing way. Gnome should not do all this alone.

At the moment, if you look at these releases, it looks like Gnome improves a lot in the fields of eye-candy and desktop power, while KDE is only moving in small steps, not really starting off.
Related to this, the support by big distributors is also quite small – Gnome has Red Hat, Ubuntu and Novell – the biggest players at the moment, all on the side of Gnome. And KDE? Well, there is Kubuntu and Mandriva – but that’s it. And both of them are shipping with Gnome as an equal counterpart. In fact, the only company which I know which is quite strong and does only support KDE is Trolltech – but they are not a distributor.

What does that mean?

First, from the point of the typical community user, there are a lot of new features which you will not be able to use: the cool NetworkManager is not usable with KDE at the moment, the new Xgl extensions are not working with KDE (at the moment), desktop search is easy and soon integrated with Gnome (beagle), difficult and still in the beginning with KDE (kat), and so on.
Besindes that, the KDE support of the distribution of your choice will become very poor in case of Suse Linux or Fedora Core (which will probably move KDE out of core soon).

Second, from the point of commercial users, Gnome is an option – KDE not. If I would be a company, would like to switch over to a Linux desktop and would be in need of a company to sell me support and everything, I would start with Novell or Red Hat – both Gnome. The first alternative would be Kubuntu, but then I really would have to know that there is this option, that there is not only tha famous Ubuntu.
And, imagine you are someone responsible for a big project, and you think: I switch over to Linux to be independent, to switch to the best operating system vendor without relearning everything – would you then take KDE as long as all vendors (!) support Gnome, and the KDE support is quite small? If you would take KDE, you could only switch from Kubuntu to Mandrake and back (btw.: even in Mandrake are the config tools written in gtk…), if you would take Gnome, you would be able to switch between Red Hat, Ubuntu, Novell and Mandrake. What do you think?

Third, the new users: there are more and more new people looking at Linux – and what will they see? The time is over were the first contact was done by Knoppix and so with KDE – we have live CDs everywhere, even Fedora will have one soon, and all these Live CDs are running Gnome. So KDE will lose contact to the new users as well, because everyone is moving over. And, face it, there are not so many apps anymore which you need from KDE when you run Gnome – K3b will have somethin equal soon, and there is nothing left which you would run inside a Gnome environment (at least if you are a new user and do not have habits from your old days).

Fourth, the KDE community: when there are more and more people using Gnome, there will be more and more developers on their side, and we will have a unbalanced situation. There will be more and more new programs on the Gnome side, and that will draw the attention of more and more new users, distributions and developers – that’s called a vicious circle.

But…

I know, you can reply that KDE will catch up with KDE 4, that there are still a lot of apps which do a much nicer job for KDE than there equals in the Gnome land, and so on – but have a second look on my thoughts: I also talk about long terms, about support by big distributors: even if KDE 4 comes up and raise the bar higher than Gnome raises it until then, Gnome will have a lot of ressources to catch up – KDE does not.
And, until then: I know that KDE has a lot of nice apps and a Office suite which integrates much, much better into KDE than everything else around Gnome, but the development of new applications for Gnome is quite fast: digikam is challanged by F-spot, akregator is challenged by Blam!, amarok is challenged by Banshee and Muine at the same time, and KDE cannot challenge beagle or diva.

And now?

What to do now? Well, first the folks at KDE should be aware of this problem – as far as I got it they don’t see it. After that, the different groups of KDE which are responsible for marketing and PR should start with talking to the distributors: why have they chosen Gnome, why don’t they provide KDE as an equal alternative, and what can KDE do to be provided as an equal alternative?
The next step would be to integrate the results of the following answers into KDE – sure, KDE cannot and should not swith to gtk, but there are other things which can be done for sure. In addition, KDE should start advertising more it’s strengths – if you start using KDE, you can get payed support by Trolltech in a way which almost no other company can provide. And soon we will have KDE for Windows also, which is until now an advantage only Gnome can provide.

A last option would be to fire up something similar to what Ximian was in former times – but for KDE: a start up company entirely made to push, develop and provide services around KDE for different, already existing distributions. Providing packages, services, add ons, payable support, etc. That could come up together with KDE 4.

So, is there anyone who knows a joint venture to provide me with money? I have the idea and the vision😉

5 thoughts on “KDE fail to keep up with Gnome?”

  1. where to begin …

    both Novell and Red Hat offer paid-for support of KDE last time i checked. and there are quite a few other business friendly desktop distros that, IMHO, do a much better job than either Novell or Red Hat on the desktop.

    as a side note, KDE tends to be much better for institutional installations (such as in offices) due to things like Kiosk.

    you mentioned you like the “just works” of ubuntu; well, kubuntu is no different save the desktop. in fact, it is officially part of the ubuntu group of projects. that’s what riddell does these days.

    you listed a bunch of apps that are “challenging” the KDE apps. note that they are challenging them and not actually the best, so i don’t see the issue here. especially since all KDE the apps you mentioned are continuing to be developed at a fast pace.

    and there are several qt/kde apps you didn’t mention that simply have no serious comparison elsewhere.

    as for network manager, work is already underway to get that in kde.

    xgl and the other eye candy: it’s still a good ways off from being stable enough itself to be ready for prime time. look at composite which has been around for how long and is still problematic; and xgl is quite a bit more ambitious.

    the fact remains that we have an amazingly solid platform with a hug number of great apps.

    gnome is going through a hype phase (they have one every so often; usually every 2nd or 3rd release) and that keeps them in the game with their user base. so bully for them! but it really says nothing about kde itself.

  2. Thanks for taking time to answer and taking care of my fears – sometimes it is just that it looks a little bit unbalanced (not only to me).
    As I already wrote in a comment to your post – I do not know how to handle this in the best way without comming up with new problems.

    I think I just have to wait some weeks or probably months until the first public release is there – when I can start to join “KDE development” in my way: compiling svn, testing, filling and discussing bugs (I still have to learn a lot about it, but I get better and better, I think😉 ), blogging about it (my two kde 4 mockup reports are still the most wanted articles in the blog here after a specific Suse howto), and just enjoying the new oportunities🙂

    Thanks again for the answer, it’s just good to know that there are some developers who are aware of these fears and things so that I can be sure that there are people who will take care of it if it is needed🙂

  3. I don’t know how I got here, but… here is my daily quota of blog replies.🙂

    About your mood:
    I can asure you that the your “abandon the ship” mentality will fizzle out as soon as you abandon the KDE ship🙂 You’ll realize that the Gnome is more like a raft, despite all the “cool announcements”. Many sane people will swim back. Only those who are used to living on a raft from the start will stay happy in their choice.

    About the Gnome “bling”:
    I am happy Gnome finally got some loving, it’s been in the dumpster of technology for a long time.
    It only became trully usable since the advent of Ubuntu.

    Check out the features of the latest releases of gnome, or XGL…
    Metacity gets “sticky” borders…
    XGL – Composite manager integrated into the window manager…

    Wahoo! Welcome to the present of other DE’s!

    For all the talk, I would like you to walk the walk… any try Gnome. Just the “preview” pane of KDE’s file open dialog is a reason enough to claw your way back.

  4. Hej Daniel,

    thank you for your comment.
    Yes, you are right, that Gnome is just keeping up with KDE at in several topics, and that there is not to much to worry.

    And I know exactly why I stay with KDE – in my first Linux-years I had a lot of changes between KDE and Gnome, but I know exactly why I stay here at KDE.

    But as you meantioned, since Ubuntu stepped up Gnome made some big improvements, and KDE will stay as it is for the next year because everyone will wait for KDE 4 – and one year is very, very long!

    Nevertheless, the most things stepped up around Gnome were just previews and similiar stuff, it will take a long time until everything settled in Gnome – and then we will hopefully see the first results of KDE4.

    But what I really, really hope, is that the KDE team will take KDE 3.5 seriously over this comming year and will add these things which are needed to make it an ongoing cool user experience (a LUKS-hal manager jumps immediatly to my mind, several small gui improvements, stability, etc.).

    I will try to do my part of the job through making good bug reports (or learning to make good bug reports😉 ).

  5. KDE is great and is way better than Gnome.
    Big corporations as Novell (Suse) or Sun favor Gnome for GTK being completely free or charge even when used in closed applications, while Qt is only free for open source applications. Period.

    Still, KDE design is clearly more advanced than Gnome’s, and perhaps most important, KDE developers’ vision is way closer to the reality of current computer users than Gnome’s. 95% of current computers use Windows, which DE will they choose when asked to switch? You know what I mean… Gnome is much more different to Windows than KDE, has far less configuration options, horrible Opem/Save dialogs, etc…

    Don’t jump too early from this bandwagon, cause this is the one that will prevail in the long term.

    Cheers!🙂

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