The future of OpenSuSE and KDE

THINQ cornered Will Stephenson, an OpenSuSE developer working on KDE, at this year's OpenSuSE Developers Conference to find out what's in store for the future of the project.

Stephenson, who is employed by principle OpenSuSE sponsor Novell but who works full-time on the KDE project, explained that KDE is a major focus for the OpenSuSE community with around 68 per cent to 72 per cent of all downloads of the platform shipping with the K Desktop Environment.

During the interview, Stephenson explained that KDE is "moving down onto the smaller devices," with work at OpenSuSE concentrating on the netbook editions while the KDE project as a whole is also working on the so-called 'third workspace' in the form of KDE Mobile, a user interface specifically targeting smart phones and ultra-portable devices.

"I see KDE extending its reach," Stephenson predicted. "I think that mobile is probably going to be the most interesting area, but I would probably give it another year or so before it really gets hot."

Moving on to the more direct future, Stephenson revealed some of the features that will appear in KDE next month with the release of KDE 4.6 Beta. After release, the new beta will be integrated within OpenSuSE and include a spruced-up Bluetooth stack, a much improved and more accessible installer, the updated and upgraded KOffice 2.3 office suite, and a new drawing application called Kritter which Stephenson describes as "a fun user tool - taking me back to my old Amiga root days where you could use DeluxePaint and just splash pixels."

Stephenson finished with a request for assistance from the OpenSuSE community, asking for "testing, help with keeping packages up to date, and really suggesting changes - things like PulseAudio, which we've been integrating somewhat late into the KDE spin of OpenSuSE. Anything like PulseAudio, it can work really well on my machine but it can work absolutely horribly on your machine - hang the kernel or something - so we need as much testing and tire kicking on that as possible."

With rival Linux distribution Ubuntu forging its own path on portable devices with the GNOME-based Unity, it remains to be seen if the OpenSuSE KDE spin can innovate its way into an increasingly crowded sector.