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.
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.
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 😉