KDE Spiffs up Linux Desktop

The KDE Foundation today rolled out the new 3.2 release of its Linux desktop, toting up over 10,000 user downloads in its first three hours of availability.

The upgraded platform–which boasts an integrated desktop plus applications–marks the culmination a year-long development effort in which the group fielded 10,000 bug reports and 2,000 feature requests.

“With this release, we prove to the world and to ourselves that KDE is still getting better, more efficient with respect to resources, and better looking,” KDE spokesperson Waldo Bastian said.

KDE 3.2 includes additions intended to make it more attractive to corporate enterprise users. It’s got an improved lockdown mode so administrators can limit the functionality of the desktop in a controlled manner. It also boasts better accessibility support. According to Chris Schlaeger, vice president of research and development at Linux vendor SuSE, the latter is “very vital to the enterprise market.”

“The enterprise market is a conservative market so we don’t expect companies switching en masse to KDE 3.2,” added KDE’s Bastian. “We know that quite a few companies are running KDE and we have also seen a good uptake of [the previous release] KDE 3.1 in recent months.”

KDE is currently the default user interface for several open-source distributions, including Ark Linux, Conectiva, Knoppix, Lindows, Lycoris, Mandrake Linux, SuSE, TurboLinux and Xandros. It’s also available as an optional component of Debian, NetBSD, Gentoo, Libranet, Red Hat, Slackware, and Solaris.

“KDE 3.2 is very important for many people because it offers a nice set of new features,” said SuSE’s Schlaeger. “It’s not a revolution as it used to be in the early days of KDE, when it brought something completely new to the Linux world that wasn’t there, but I think the KDE project is making steady progress.”

Schaleger said KDE 3.2 would be the basis for SuSE’s next-generation product. As a service to the open-source community, SuSE is offering unsupported packages of KDE 3.2 right now. “If people feel adventurous and can’t wait to try it, they can get it,’ he said.

KDE doesn’t have the Linux desktop to itself. Competitor GNOME (http://www.gnome.org) is also vying for that space. “At the moment the desktop question is open,” Schlaeger said. SuSE Linux currently supports both platforms, though KDE is its default selection.

“We started with our desktop initiatives back in 1999 and KDE was the only viable project out there,” Schleager said. “At that point, GNOME was simple not ready. At the moment we believe that nine out of 10 customers use the KDE desktop from our SuSE Linux customer base. That is one of the arguments why we continue with it.”

The list of new features in KDE 3.2 also includes platform-wide password management and improvements to the Koffice Suite and the Konqueror browser. (The latter is used by Apple’s Safari). KDE plans on further improving its lockdown features in the next few months with a new graphical administration tool.

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