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.comment: Weaseling a Good Idea - page 2

A Non-Denial Denial

  • November 15, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

What was this blockbuster secret? KDE's developers, along with a number of commercial companies, are joining to promote KDE. That's pretty much it. This afternoon at Comdex they will have a news conference, where they will hand out press kits. This morning they issued a news release, oddly timed.

The companies involved include some big names, some of whom are also heavily involved in the Gnome Foundation. The companies include IBM, Inprise/Borland, Corel, Compaq, Caldera, SuSE, Mandrake, TurboLinux, Hewlett-Packard, TrollTech, Fujitsu-Siemens, VALinux, theKompany.com, KDE.com, and others. The League's first board meeting was held at Harrah's in Las Vegas Monday afternoon.

To be an "Executive member" of the KDE League, one must pony up a $5,000 initiation fee and $10,000 dues per year; to be an "Affiliate member," the price tag is $1,000 ante, $2,000 to play, per annum. There is an additional class of member, but there is just one of these: the KDE development community itself as represented by from three to six board members, depending among other things upon how many are necessary for KDE to maintain a balance of control.

The League's purposes, according to its bylaws, are manifold:

  • Sustain, provide and facilitate formal and informal educate [sic] about the features, capabilities and other qualities of KDE;
  • Encourage corporations, governments, enterprises and individuals to use KDE;
  • Encourage corporations, governments, enterprises and individuals to develop for KDE;
  • Sustain, provide and facilitate formal and informal education about development for KDE;
  • Provide expertise, information, direction and position papers regarding KDE and its development and use;
  • Foster communication and cooperation between and among KDE developers;
  • Foster communication and cooperation between KDE developers and the public through publications, articles, web sites, meetings, attendance at trade shows, press releases, interviews, promotional materials and committees.

The organization of the KDE League is not a huge departure from a standard boilerplate corporation: there will be an annual meeting, a board of directors, and an executive committee of board members who will handle the League's day-to-day functioning.

What the KDE League Won't Do

The organizers have taken what appears to be considerable pains to eliminate any suggestion that it will attempt to exercise--or even possess--any control over the direction or nature of KDE development. Instead, the idea seems to be to provide financial and promotional considerations for mutual benefit. This means that companies who wish to develop commercial applications for KDE are welcome, and indeed some of these, such as a KDE interface for IBM's ViaVoice speech-recognition software, are expected to be announced at this afternoon's Comdex news conference.

The fact that many of the backers of the Gnome Foundation are also involved in the KDE League suggests that after their two decades with a Microsoft monopoly they do not wish to be stuck with a single desktop now that they see Linux as the key to the iron-clad-locked chains of Redmond. And it couldn't come at a better time.

As anybody with brains more than those of a potted plant can see, Linux is fast approaching its breakthrough moment. It has reached critical mass, with the flawed but exciting XFree86-4.x, the upcoming 2.4 kernel, with KDE2 and upcoming versions of Gnome. As a desktop operating system it will, with these new things, be unsurpassed, except in the minds of the sort of people who think Netscape 6 is an upgrade--but I've already eliminated the potted plants, haven't I?

The next round of Linux distributions will be unbelievably exciting, even for the newbie. They will include all these exciting improvements and will make them easy to install and configure. Not to disparage Gnome or its foundation, but the decision by Sun to put that desktop atop Solaris isn't really the final word. Still, absent any buzz-producing body, KDE could be forgotten through neglect, though many leading distributions would include it as the default desktop.

KDE has forever needed a drummer to whip up a little excitement about what has always been a really great desktop. Now KDE has that tub thumper.

Which is a good thing. Still, there's cause for a little discomfort.

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