People are shifting their computing time from traditional large laptops and workstation desktop systems across a breadth of devices. Not only are people using tablets and phones more, they are also using online services more and more.
For that least several years this trend has weighed on my mind in relation to desktop oriented Free software and, in particular, KDE software. How can we ensure KDE software can be where people are using computers today and tomorrow? I'll call this the Big Question.
The answer is not an easy one, in that it's actually a set of answers and it implies work for all of us. Some project teams within KDE, such as Plasma, Calligra, Marble and Kontact (among others) have been starting on addressing the Big Question. We've been creating software that can scale down to smaller hardware and creating user interfaces that work with various interaction patterns, such as touch, in addition to our traditional focus on the WIMP paradigm. Some have also targetted platforms and operating systems that are fairly foreign territory to be able to access the audience that use them; the port of Qt to Android can be seen as an effort in this line.
This is a lot harder, however, without hardware in your hands that you can easily work with to test your software on. So the Big Question leads to the Small Question: What hackable ARM-based hardware exists that supports KDE software out of the box?
Until Improv, the answer was simple: none.
Improv will ship to people with KDE libraries as well as Plasma Workspaces included. We will support that software, take bug reports, issue updates, etc. Community support is something we are fostering even now as well. We have an open build service farm that we've been using for quite a while now to create KDE packages for Mer OS for both ARM and Intel targets. There's even a Mer SDK you can install locally to get started on image creation if that's what you're interested in doing.
So if you'd like to be able to see how your software runs on a small ARM device; if you'd like to see how thin clients accessing your applications might perform; if you'd like to experiment with alternative form factors .. Improv is there for us.
Being able to offer a full computer for $75 that can run KDE software to an acceptable level, and in the process give a good impression of it to those using it, could be invaluable in promoting KDE technology to students and makers alike.
Improv is also great for non-GUI development. It makes an awesome whisper-quiet, low power server for the home or small office. These kinds of services, properly integrated with rich client software, is an area which will become increasingly important to the future of KDE and other Free software desktop software.
Improv is a product that can open the doors to the world of ubiquitous, device-centric computing for KDE. No more waiting for a big vendor to be kind to us and take our needs into consideration, no more buying devices never intended to run KDE software and try and shoehorn it in.
This is why Improv should be of prime interest to, and receive the support, of the KDE community and those who care about the success of it.