A few weeks back we ended up talking about the state of this interface and I note that, with all honesty, I really don't have the resources to push it forward while keeping libplasma, plasma-desktop, the Plasma plugins, my other responsibilities in the KDE codebase and KDE e.V. all moving as well. Bille suggested I appoint a lieutenant or two to take it on and be the obsessive-compulsive maintainers of it. Knowing a great idea when I hear one, Artur and Marco were quickly deputized.
The topic came up again last week when a rather concerned developer accidentally woke me up in the middle of the night (I'm not very good at ignoring concern :) to discuss why having a netbook interface is so darn important. They wondered if it would be possible to get something out for the KDE 4.3 release ... I didn't think so.
So yesterday a few of us got together on IRC and put together a roadmap and did another revision of our netbook design ideas. I'm really happy with the results, and we're targeting KDE 4.4 for the inclusion of a netbook interface. It will be usable on a regular laptop or desktop as well, and I expect some will do just that.
Now, I'm not going to spill to many of the beans here as to what our plans are, I'll leave that up to Artur, Marco and whoever else joins them to blog screenshots/screencasts as progress is actually made, but here is what I think the important points are:
- We aren't making an interface for a "smaller laptop" or a "larger handheld"; the interface is for a netbook, which has a unique set of use cases and should have a unique, if familiar, user interface. To our knowledge, nobody is really doing this yet. We feel that just as Apple made popular an interface style on handhelds that is for handhelds with their iPhone/iPod touch interface, netbooks deserve a similar treatment.
- Being based on libplasma, we don't have to start from scratch. In fact, the bulk of the work is already done. This will give us a nice showcase for the concept of a "primary user interface framework" and how it can be used to reapply existing work to new physical form factors with minimal investments.
- Being based on libplasma, it will automagically work with other Plasma tools. This will make working with a Plasma netbook and a Plasma laptop together easy and coherent, especially when the SoC projects on things like network transparency in libplasma come to fruition in KDE 4.4.
- Being part of the Plasma project, it will share the visual identity of the Plasma desktop shell: you will be able to put your netbook next to your laptop/desktop and they will look like they belong together. Only Apple manages to do this with their products right now.
- Because it's not some esoteric software stack all welded together with a kernel and various "made for mobile only" toolkit work, it will be easy for people to get involved and work with it.
- The emphasis in the design is on full screen usage, speed to information, integration with appplications and visual beauty.
As this shapes up, I'm going to be actively looking for market opportunities for this new bit of software. If you'd like to get involved, find Artur (aka Morpheuz) and Marco (aka notmart) on irc in #plasma. Bring your text and/or SVG editor with you. :)