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January 24th, 2009

Release New Technology Early Or When Complete?

I just read an interesting post by Aaron Seigo from the KDE team.

As you might know, that development team made the choice to release their new technology, which was built to be up to the challenges of the future, once the backends themselves were stable and a good base for building applications on it, about a year ago, with the KDE 4.0 release.

A lot of bad press followed, as the applications themselves weren't completely ready for the users and the 4.0 release didn't even nearly ship feature-parity with the 3.5 series that provided and still provides a complete and stable user experience for many people. Now the next public beating goes round as Linus Torvalds has apparently switched to GNOME in the absence of his distribution being able to provide him with a KDE version that is feature-complete and stable for production use. They shipped KDE 4 as its said to be the new stable version and didn't offer people to stay with the actually production-ready KDE 3.5 (unlike openSUSE, by the way), but thankfully offer GNOME, which is production-ready, even though it doesn't offer many of the more future-oriented eye-candy and development frameworks. Linus apparently determined he'd better use a production-ready system than cool technology that is incomplete, as many other users might have.

This somehow reminds me of Netscape 6, we saw very similar patterns there. Cool new technology, but unfit for daily use of many people. Netscape died, and Mozilla needed a shift in thinking to really gain strength again, and the suite will never be a mass product any more, even though we finally managed to make it survive and hopefully thrive again with SeaMonkey.

Now, if they wouldn't have released the new technology in KDE 4.0, people probably wouldn't have put so much development into getting the applications and the user experience up to speed and be able to ship a really mostly feature-complete and for sure production-ready KDE 4.2 this upcoming week (I've tested and used it on my laptop and will convert my main machine soon). In terms of getting more people to work with the new technology, the "release early" strategy helped quite a lot.

The real question will be if the project and the KDE 4 technology can egalize the bad reputation it has right now, gain strength and move forward again as a strong platform and come back as the leading free desktop system. KDE 4.2 surely has the power to do that, but bad reputation is hard to overcome. Let's see how this turns out.

(And yes, when we have a certain reluctance to releasing SeaMonkey 2 before it's really production-ready, we also have stories like this in mind.)

By KaiRo, at 23:50 | Tags: KDE, Netscape 6, release | 8 comments | TrackBack: 1

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