I'm going to share my thoughts on Calligra in this blog entry, but I am not a member of the Calligra team. I do follow the mailing lists, and have spoken to several of the people involved over the last year about the various situations. This affords me a somewhat special viewpoint: I'm fairly aware of what's been going on, but not directly involved.
Normally, I wouldn't feel compelled to write anything about it, but there have been a few attempts to provide some analysis on the situation by people outside of the KOffice community. Let's just say that these attempts have been less than impressive, full of speculation and short on fact.
Some Factual Information
So, let's start with some facts: KOffice has experienced an internal fork and in the process has been renamed "Calligra". The fork itself came about through unresolved differences between a member of the KOffice team and the rest of the members over how to manage both long term targets and day-to-day development. This eventually resulted in people coming to the conclusion that those differences were not only unresolved but also unresolvable. To call a one person schism a fork may seem a bit overly dramatic, but that's certainly how it felt to those involved and was not a triviality. Coming to a fork, the rest of the KOffice team took the opportunity of change to rethink various aspects, including the name.
What's in a name? Well, certainly not the quality of a product. It does, however, impact two important things: what people expect from it and what those involved in creating it aim for. It's psychological in both cases, but can have important affects. For a project with a storied past such as KOffice, it seems that the symbolism of changing the name to something new, something that sounds more elegant is significant.
The level of activity around Calligra has been terrific, both leading up to the moment of the fork and rebranding as well as afterwards. There is new energy in the project, and that's a good thing. It may even be viewed as a good turn resulting from a series of sub-optimal choices.
The biggest challenge laying ahead for the people working on Calligra is going to be building a healthy, dynamic community with real leadership around it and a coherent vision under it. In other words: the challenge is to tap the momentum before it dissipates to improve on the foundational issues that KOffice struggled with.
I have faith in my fellow KDE people, and I wish them the best in this.
Done right, Calligra could become another WebKit, but for documents rather than HTML. It has many of the same characteristics KHTML did back in the day: it's light weight, it's got a number of compelling features, it's flexible and easy to hack on relative to what else is out there and it has the start of commercial adoption.
There is an additional wrinkle here, of course: not all of the Calligra apps are going to be suited for mobile due to the form factor. I expect to find Krita on my desktop as a serious work tool, but not on my N900 due to the tiny screen size if nothing else. Krita on a tablet sounds fun and useful, though.
To really get the most out of Calligra, it would be a tremendous bonus for me to be able to use apps with the same behind-the-scenes engine on my desktop, tablet and smartphone. It's similar to Plasma in this way, only that where in the code the shared-versus-abstracted division starts is a bit different. For Plasma, it's quite high up in the stack allowing for large reuse; this is important as Plasma is meant to be used to create small apps (Plasmoids) with. For Calligra, it's probably going to be deeper in the data and logic handling code, with the user interface being the point at which divergence occurs.
Due to applications like Kexi firmly anchored on larger screen sizes, I don't see a significant shift away from the desktop, but expect this to result in a growth of scope rather than a simple shifting of it. This is good news for everyone using these applications, though it presents some new challenges to the Calligra team both in terms of logistics as well as technology.
It's early days, but I can already see where Calligra could go with this .. and it's an exciting set of possibilities.