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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.)

Entry written by KaiRo and posted on January 24th, 2009 23:50 | Tags: KDE, Netscape 6, release | 8 comments


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    Tony Mechelynck

    from Brussels, Belgium

    I'll stay with KDE 3.5.10 (and openSUSE 11.1) for the time being, but I've installed KDE4 where I can play with it and get accustomed to it. :-)

    IMHO SeaMonkey 2 is so much better than SeaMonkey 1 that I won't ever go back (though YMMV). I think it's a GoodThing™ that Sm 2.0 alpha releases and nightlies are available, long before the final release, for people daring enough to test them -- and sometimes, like this past week, get cold shivers about it: alpha nightlies will go wrong, after all; but it's almost always possible to go back to a previous nightly when the latest one is badly broken.

    This way, with several versions in parallel (let's say four: Sm1.1.x release, Sm1.1.x nightly, Sm2.0a release, Sm 2.0a nightly, and I'm not counting the hourly "tinderbox-builds"), you can choose from the most to the least stable, for people from the most "prudent" to the most "daring" (and at the moment, the most "prudent" of the four is the "official" release).
    2009-01-25 02:46


    from Sweden

    "future-oriented eye-candy and development frameworks."
    I've never really understood why somebody would use KDE... do you think you could list some of these eye-candy/development related stuff that makes KDE better in your opinion?
    Just asking because I like to know stuff, small and big : )
    2009-01-25 03:18



    I only can tell you that KDE4 feels more rounded and smooth than KDE3, just look at the screen shots on the KDE homepage, they show that well. Also, things like corner actions are really nice.
    I can't compare with GNOME but just looking at apps like GIMP that I'm using and looking at some ugly things in the GNOME HIG, I'm pretty sure it couldn't feel a slick as either KDE 3 or 4 to me.
    2009-01-25 13:53


    from Sweden

    I see, so it's basically about the default look? I personally prefer to have the interface out of the way, in the background.
    As for your problems with Gimp, if it's really bad for you. You could try installing one of the Oxygen skins for GTK, it might help ease the pain : )

    2009-01-25 14:25

    Tony Mechelynck

    from Brussels, Belgium

    I came from Dos, then Windows. My Dos experience made bash easy to understand and "feel", indeed (after not much use) easier than the Dos shells. In comparison with Windows, KDE was just as easy, while Gnome always felt foreign to me. Oh, I do use some Gnome applications, including Gimp (occasionally) and gvim with Gnome2 GUI (constantly), not to mention SeaMonkey; but my desktop is the KDE one, and I prefer ksysguard to gnome-system-monitor and konsole to gnome-terminal. YMMV, of course, but I'm just trying to explain why "someone" might prefer KDE over Gnome.
    2009-01-25 17:11


    As I think said in an email, the reason I use SeaMonkey is it's had 10 years of polish applied to the UI. It's the little things, like middle-click on the new tab button opens a new tab with the contents of the cut buffer. Or right-clicking the offline icon to get at the proxy settings. Much as I'm looking forward to the features and speed of SM2, I'm a little afraid that these affordances will go missing.
    2009-01-25 19:47


    "In comparison with Windows, KDE was just as easy, while Gnome always felt foreign to me."
    Well I can definitely see the attraction if one want something with a Windows/Mac OS feel to it.

    "I prefer ksysguard to gnome-system-monitor..."
    Personally, I prefer top : )

    "and konsole to gnome-terminal"
    I rarely ever use any console functionality except command history, though I should probably try and learn how to do command history matching/searching...

    "but I'm just trying to explain why "someone" might prefer KDE over Gnome."
    And I'm grateful that you did, as that's what I asked about : )

    Well, thanks for taking your time explaining! Sorry, can't give you anything for your trouble though...

    // KNox
    2009-01-26 00:31


    When I started Linux, I used KDE. It was similar to Windows, but much better, and better than GNOME (especially Konqueror; is there a file manager worse than Nautilus?). But for the past few years I've been using just a window manager without a desktop (and Midnight Commander as a file manager), and everything is just much faster. Even on my computer, which is the better part of a decade old, I can get to the "desktop" in under five seconds, rather than a minute or more. I don't know why Linus is being such a baby about this, though.

    Now, about Netscape 6. I really didn't see the problem back then. It was much more stable than Netscape 4 (which took eons to start up as well). And my web pages would actually work with it, where Netscape 4 wouldn't show anything unless you disabled style sheets (was the a browser with poorer style sheet support than Netscape 4?). My biggest problem with Netscape 6 was how it installed AOL junk all over the place (and I would rather have an IRC client than AIM).

    SeaMonkey is in a different position, though. 1.1.x is just fine. I don't see any point in rushing when most the differences are architectural and the only thing people will likely notice is that their plugins no longer work (until we convince the authors to support SeaMonkey 2).
    2009-01-26 02:20

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