the first set of thoughts revolve around the question: "what is kde's unique selling proposition?" the second concerns finding an answer to: "what is a 'kde application'?"
here are short notes on where i am on each of these questions. i've shared them before with others and the feedback provided by these people has been critical to shaping my thinking. i figure that with 4.0 really starting to take shape and a marketing meeting this month in darmstadt, germany this is a good time to discuss it a bit more publicly.
kde: a reason to use it
"why use kde and what is the special value in kde?" i've collected lots of answers ranging from technical descriptions to philosophical ones. the two that really stand out in my mind are this: our community and the resulting practical benefits of free(dom) software.
yes, kde4 needs to have lots of great and useful applications. yes, it needs to look gorgeous and introduce new, interesting concepts for the desktop. but honestly these are things that others can mimic given enough time and patience. we mimic some of the better ideas seen in our competitors' efforts, after all.
but what is unique about kde is a combination of our community and freedom. our community is an amazing resource that adds tremendous value to being a kde user. i won't go into lengthy details (i don't have time, nor do i wish to bore everyone all the way to death) but i think it is important that we highlight these items in our public communication of kde4.
the technical excellence of kde becomes a foundational basis upon which this rests. so it remains of prime importance, however it seems people do need something more than good technology to motivate them in their decisions. betamax vs vhs, blah blah blah. and our prime competitor (microsoft) can not compete with us effectively here without fundamentally changing their business model.
how do we communicate these ideas in ways that are impactful, understandable in 20 seconds by the average computer user and don't become some wishy-washy attempt at a lifestyle brand? that's the secret sauce, isn't it? =)
good news is that i've seen and heard some really solid ideas and examples for how to do this. hopefully we'll have "production ready" implementations start to appear soon from the likes of the promo teams.
the meaning of "kde"
as kde expands to include operating systems that don't need a workspace (panels, desktop icons, window manager, etc) because they already come with one bolted on the meaning of "kde" starts to queer a bit. we have historically said kde is a desktop. this has in turn caused problems for application teams both in and out of the primary kde project since it coupled their efforts with the kde workspace in the minds of the public a bit too tightly for some.
i'd like to see us position kde™ as a more generic concept: a free and open source consumer computing software brand. it would then become our umbrella name for many things, one of which is the kde workspace. in turn we elevate some of our already known names (or "brands") such as koffice, kde edu, etc. up a bit in relative importance. perhaps we even create one or two new names for things like "applications that come from kde project proper and are recommended as quality choices for a default desktop". the kde workspace itself becomes a "premiere location to run your kde software".
what are the consequences? it makes talking about kde apps on macos or windows simpler; it allows for greater independence for apps like kexi which values being able to run everywhere (kde, gnome, xfce, windows, mac...); it may even give us a clearer path by which to organize our public communication.
what do i mean by that last sentence? look at kde.org right now and click on the screenshots link. it takes one to a set of pages ordered by kde desktop release version number. but what if that's not what you're interested in specifically? what if you want to see screenshots of koffice? right now you have to navigate to the koffice website and hunt for them. you may even note that it says on the koffice main page that "koffice is a free, integrated office suite for KDE." but is it?
this very strongly communicates that "kde" is a desktop and that is its prime objective in life. projects like koffice are somehow subject to it. but is this reflective of reality? if we reinterpreted this communication in terms of "kde is a shared umbrella" perhaps it gets a lot clearer.
perhaps on our main kde page we'd direct people to portals for our office, workspace, etc ... products. from there they would reference being associated with the kde brand (and offer screenshots specific to that project), but that could now be communicated as not being equivalent to the workspace. the workspace would be the preferred, recommended and best place to run all your apps but certainly not the only choice.
it seems this would also give projects like kde edu, koffice, amarok, konqueror, etc. a level of respect and involvement that more accurately reflects their efforts (and the results of those efforts) in our universe.
why now, and why in my blog?
i've had this conversation with a lot of people in kde as well as some who aren't. it seems to work well enough as a set of thoughts, but it's really not my call. i'm just one guy in a very large project and these aren't just my own personal ideas but the synthesis of the input from many others. to be of any use, though, these ideas need to be something that people in and around kde use as guidance points. this is why i'm sharing it publicly here: so that people can consider the ideas and decide for themselves.
we don't have to have some great project-wide agreement process for this to have positive effects nor am i suggesting any such bureaucratic approach. it just takes enough people adopting the concepts as their own; and i bet they can make the concepts better by doing so. right now feels like a good time to put it out there. whether anything results or not remains to be seen. =)