The 2010 Linux Journal Reader's Choice Awards are out and several KDE efforts have done paricularly well this year. While these kinds of awards can not be used as reliable indicators of real world usage patterns, they do give some insight into how the vocal and involved F/OSS community feels about things and they do provide some interesting hints at directions within F/OSS.
Amarok and Digikam both took top spots in their respective categories, and quite deservedly: they are awesome applications. They are also both "Extragear" applications: applications that are not bundled with the KDE software compilation that gets released twice a year along with the Development Platform and Workspaces. Like many such KDE applications, Amarok and Digikam have reasonably large and dedicated development and development support teams. It is great evidence not only that terrific apps can be made with the Qt and KDE Platform, but that the bundled apps in the software compilation are not the only path to support and success as an application.
There were also several runner up, 3rd and 4th place showings for applications such as Choqok for microblogging, Kopete for IM, Konqueror for web, KMail for email, Konversation for IRC, Krita for graphic design tool and KOffice for office document creation. VLC, an application that made the jump to Qt in the last couple of years, also showed well taking top spot for media players and making a show in the best audio tools section. It wasn't the only Qt app in their either.
MeeGo and the N900 from Nokia also took top honors in two different categories, showing the momentum Nokia and Intel have built around the MeeGo platform.
The real good news to me, though, was how "KDE", by which they mean our desktop offering, did. In the last few years we have gone through some hard, though somewhat necessary, progressions. There was the difficulty of the transition from KDE 3 to the 4.x versions of the platform, desktop and applications. We adjusted our branding message to reflect a more complex reality and experienced a number of technology speedbumps, some of which were firmly in our control and some of which were less so. In the last year, we've emerged from that period with a stronger technology foundation, better applications, clearer communication, stronger vision and a healthy community. This wasn't the only challenge we faced, however.
There was also the rise of Ubuntu in popularity amongst the F/OSS enthusiasts with a near constant spray of articles and communication labeled "Ubuntu" regardless of whether the content was Ubuntu specific or not. Ubuntu has quite firmly been a GNOME distribution, though with the move to Unity and the increased support we're seeing for Kubuntu, Qt and KDE applications from Canonical this isn't as black-and-white as it once as. Still, this "Ubuntu, ergo GNOME" connection was hugely helpful for GNOME and it sometimes came at our expense. We persevered through it, and various things in the landscape have shifted.
I think this is reflected in the "Best Desktop" and "Product of the Year" awards. KDE's desktop offering jumped 10 points in Linux Journal's poll over last year, reaching parity with GNOME's poll numbers. That is a significant jump, after a two year slump. It was also very telling that in "Product of the Year", we snagged the runner-up position behind only Android. That is a huge achievement for people to consider what we do, year in and year out, as something that contends for F/OSS' best achievement of the year across all categories.
Four years ago, we knew we had some very hard decisions to make. We knew that we could try and ride our laurels and past success and likely fade out into the sunset as we did so. We knew we could also take on the task of retooling that which needed to be, though that would bring disruption with it. Not an easy decision, and not one you get to make twice. There is yet so much more that we can explore and accomplish thanks to the decisions we did make, how we dealt with not just the positives but also the uncomfortable negatives and how the entire community of contributors around KDE picked up their boots in support of what needed to be done.
We're not done yet. Next year I hope to see even more KDE and Qt applications polling at the top spots in their category, and we'll certainly be shooting for another jump in the Desktop Environment poll based on great upcoming releases.
Cheers to everyone involved with making KDE software winners in the minds and hearts of ourselves and our users! :)