K Desktop Environment is Dead: Long Live KDE

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 25, 2009

Following in the footsteps of KFC, the KDE Project is rebranding and getting rid of the full name "K Desktop Environment." Unlike KFC, KDE won't be offering crispy chicken and stale biscuits. What KDE will be offering is "distinct brands for the software that was previously referred to generically as 'KDE'." Instead of offering KDE 4.4 in 2010, the project will be releasing the "KDE Software Compilation 4.4."

According to the post, the rationale for the switch is that KDE doesn't just represent the software, it represents the community and the body of software produced by the community. The repositioning document lays out all the new names and suggested naming for applications.

The suggestion for applications that are not prefixed with the telltale "K" is that they should be preceded by KDE: KDE Okular instead of Okular, KDE Dolphin instead of Dolphin, and so on.

With the transition from the KDE 3 series to KDE 4, the project has had a lot of cause to think about branding, marketing, and so forth. The project has been reinventing itself with a focus on being a development platform, as opposed to merely a *nix desktop environment. It's good to see major projects focusing on the marketing aspect as well, one hopes it will be accompanied by a similar focus on meeting end users needs as well as the branding.

The rebranding may pose a slight challenge for downstream projects like openSUSE, Kubuntu, and Fedora that ship KDE. Explaining that the distribution includes KDE to users unfamiliar with a choice of desktop environment was not trivial — explaining that it includes the "KDE Software Compilation" could take an afternoon.

The work on branding hasn't stopped KDE from pushing out more good stuff, though. The project also announced KOffice 2.1.0. The release is still tagged as an "early adopter" version, and not quite ready for production use — but with significant improvements over the 2.0 release.

The graphics applications in the KOffice suite are an exception to the "not quite ready yet" rule for KOffice 2.1. Krita and Karbon (the photo editor and vector graphics application, respectively) are considered ready for widespread use with this release.

One might wish the KDE folks to add a branding guideline that calls for using ".0" only with software that is, in fact, considered production ready. Other than that, though, the branding guidelines and KOffice release look like positive steps for the project towards meeting the goals of providing an excellent free software platform.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News, Linux.com, UnixReview.com, IBM developerWorks, and many others.