The following was written by Slashdot Reader and KDE Core Team Member, Kurt Granroth
One developers Opinion of Sun + GNOME
Recently, Sun and HP (but mostly Sun) announced that they will be using Gnome as their default desktop. As a member of the KDE Core Team and as a US press-rep, announcement, I have been asked more then a few times what KDE thinks of this. I have also been asked if KDE user should be worried about the future of KDE now. I've given a rough idea of what "KDE thinks" to those journalists.. but the answer must be pretty generic since KDE is too distributed and diverse to permit me to speak for everybody.
But the wishy-washy answer that I am forced to give doesn't mean that I don't have strong *personal* opinions on the matter -- I do. So I'd like to take this time to offer a few of them for your enjoyment.
I look at the Sun announcement and I try to imagine how it can effect the KDE project. Let's look at the absolute *worst* case situation (from our point of view). Say Sun and HP contribute a significant amount of top-notch programmers towards the Gnome project and as a result, they overtake us. Perhaps for the first time, Gnome is better designed, easier to program for, easier to use, and more stable then KDE. Meanwhile, with the momentum gained by it being the "commercial Unix standard", more and more vendors use Gnome in porting their apps without giving KDE a second thought. Maybe as a result, even "Joe Hacker" in his dorm room might not want to work with KDE.
That's the "worst" case. But say, even if that *did* become true (doubtful, see below), it still wouldn't take away from the fact that KDE is very well designed, incredibly easy to program for, intuitively easy to use and rock solid stable. We have managed to attract hundreds of developers and millions of users to KDE and we will continue to attract the numbers after words. Remember, even if Gnome does become a great desktop, that doesn't mean that KDE will stop being a great desktop. Put another way, KDE will always be around and it will always be a worthwhile desktop to use and platform to develop on.
But let's back-pedal just a bit. I personally find the above scenario *incredibly* unlikely. It has never been shown that throwing more developers on the project will guarantee that the project will succeed, and you can show that it often makes no difference at all. Sun may have a lot of developers, but it remains to be seen if it will matter.
I have reason to be skeptical. Let's not forget just how the backers of the Open Group/Motif and CDE were. That's right -- Sun and HP. Two large companies with all their resources thrown at this that couldn't compete with *either* Gnome or KDE. The Sun website talks glowingly of all the really cool things they will do with Gnome... but those with a memory (and a web browser pointed towards the Open Group's website) will remember that Sun said pretty much the same thing for Motif/CDE.. and look where that went.
No, Sun's developer resources don't worry me in the slightest. We have already shown that we can take them on and win convincingly. I don't see that they will magically change anytime soon.
I do worry a *little* bit more about the PR aspects of this, though. There will be a temptation among the less-dedicated journalists to say that now that Sun and HP and RedHat all favor Gnome, then it must be a standard for Unices. After all, everybody knows that Linux *is* RedHat, right? I am already seeing mentions of this and as people jump on the bandwagon, we'll likely see it even more.
This may have nothing to do with any kind of reality, though. Already, for every new Solaris or HP workstation, there are likely several computers running Linux. Looking at the demographics of all the Linux distributions worldwide, we see that KDE focused distributions are still the norm. All in all, there are likely a LOT more workstations running KDE then there are running something else.
This somehow brings me to the another question that has been frequently asked: Will KDE ever have a corporate-backed "foundation" deciding it's future? While I'm not arrogant enough to think I can guarantee what the future will hold, I am still reasonably secure in saying that pigs will probably fly first. A board like that flies square in the face of everything that the KDE project stands for.
KDE is, has been, and always be governed and managed by those *developers* that actually do the work on it. Working code is what matter, not your market capitalization. Commercial entities may sponsor development on various aspects of KDE, but they will never be allowed to decide what KDE will become. KDE is a desktop "by the people and for the people" and if we were to prostitute ourselves to big-money for the chance of being a media-recognized standard, we would be stomping on all the people that have supported, developed, and used KDE throughout the years. We can honestly say to all developers that if you contribute good code to KDE, we will welcome it and assure you that it will never be subject to the whims and fancies of a company under the gun from shareholders. Your code will be judged purely on it's merits. More to the point, your contribution will make a difference -- it will *matter*.
I do find it ironic, though, that it is *Gnome* taking this step. Could anybody have possibly imagined this when Gnome started? Weren't they the "hacker desktop"? Didn't they have all the "desktop for the people" principles? Hmm... times change, I guess.
But back to KDE and the possibility of a great Gnome. I get the feeling that most of the people that are comparing Gnome and KDE are doing so with current Gnome and KDE 1.1.2 (or less). Even though a version of KDE that *old* still compares favorably, it's a pale shadow to the upcoming KDE 2.0. A comparison between current Gnome and current KDE (in my opinion, of course), shows KDE really shining. I *strongly* urge everybody to check out 2.0 before jumping to any kind of conclusion -- it is a truly kick-ass desktop with by far the best development architecture out there.
So I'll end this longish, partially incoherent ramble with this disclaimer: These are all my personal (largely un-filtered) opinions on these matters. They *may* reflect the views of other KDE developers, but there is no possible way I'm going to be presumptuous enough to claim that they *do*. I may be a little bit pro-KDE in thinking it is superior to Gnome, but I still have the utmost respect for the Gnome developers themselves. I've met a number of hackers -- both "free-agent" ones and HelixCode/Eazel/RedHat paid ones -- and all have demonstrated immense talent and a genuine hacker mentality. Please don't take any of what I said as a attack on *any* person or persons.