I picked up two magazines to bring home: one is a boring business magazine (ok, I don't find it boring, but I'm pretty sure most people reading this blog would ;) and the other is Linux Magazine. On the cover is Tux the penguin with a superman cape and a KDE logo in a shield on his chest. The title: The Next-Generation Desktop: A Hard Look At KDE4.
I had to buy it, right? =)
I got home, sat down with my coffee and a cranberry muffin and opened the magainze to page 34 to read Joe Brockmeier's article. After reading it I smiled and fired up blogger to write this. In his article, Joe hit the following points that we've really been trying hard to both achieve in our software as well as our messaging:
- KDE 4.0 is a development / technical preview release. 4.1 is where rubber hits road for more work-a-day users. Joe notes that he can already get a full day's work done, but still...
- The roadmap for 4.1 (and beyond) was clearly enunciated
- The interface is very beautiful (huzzah Oxygen and huzzah application devs for streamlining the interfaces)
- KDE is about applications too, not "just" a desktop shell (and Joe hits on several of the cool new features; hard to do in just 3 pages of space)
- KDE is about portability: it may be a Linux focussed magazine, but the Windows and MacOS efforts got their own sub-heading and 3 paragraphs of copy to go with it.
Joe's conclusion boils down to this: there's work left to do, but it already shines in many places and is set to surpass all comers as long asthe KDE contributors keep up the pace.
Joe really enunciated all the points we've been trying to get out there: portability, roadmap, goals, etc. So we're obviously communicating clearly enough for the likes of Joe to understand it, and thanks to people like Joe who can reach a broad audience with skilled and clear writing even more people will be able to understand what we've accomplished and where we are going from here. Cool.
While at the magazine store I also glanced through PC Mag because they had an article comparing Vista, XP, MacOS and Ubuntu (remember the days when "Linux == Red Hat"? *sigh*) in an "OS shoot out". Usually such articles are really difficult to get right (how many good writers actually have enough data and experience on all those systems?) and there were points I'd quibble with (you can read it for yourself here if you wish), but what really got me was this:
Ubuntu did great when it came to Linux's (and F/OSS in general's) strenths: cost and security. It also did pretty good on application availability and installation, but fell on its face when it came to networking, hardware support and ... interface.
Networking lost points due to a combination of hardware and user interface issues. So we can put the dead last placing down to hardware support and user interface both coming up really short. The article was actually pretty positive about Linux in general, but they didn't pull punches either. It's really frustrating to watch F/OSS get panned (and come in dead last) because of the same two old issues: user interface and hardware support. (At the same time: it's awesome to see Linux be compared to the competition in a mainstream magazine.)
So what can we do about this?
Hardware support is difficult, but that takes care of itself as volume ramps up and more commercially successful client side hardware products using Linux emerge. The UMPC movement is probably helping quite a bit a here, actually. As more vendors perceive a market for their hardware, the number of drivers and their quality will generally increase.
Unfortunately, it's hard to ramp up volume when the interface is deemed inferior. Which brings me back to the Joe's article in Linux Magazine: he was able to recognize even in the 4.0 incarnation that what we are doing is not just keeping on the same line of reason and trajectory but making decisions and writing code to that will enable us to address this deficiency.
We are nearly a dozen years into this whole "F/OSS desktop" thing now and it's no secret that we're serious about being the best by, you know, actually being the best. That's not easy nor does it happen over night ... but the path is cleared and we're marching on towards the light.
In five years time I don't want to read about the F/OSS user interface coming in last compared to Microsoft and Apple. I don't think any of us do, to be honest. Many of us believe that it's precisely the kind of hard work (and at times, daring) that is going into the various aspects of KDE4 (and I'm thinking of a lot more than just plasma here) that is required for that to happen.