KDE getting ready to go native on Windows

A native Windows port for KDE's graphical framework is under development and could help the Linux desktop environment attract Microsoft users, but some fear the move will harm Linux

The Linux desktop environment KDE is moving a little closer to Microsoft Windows as developers ready a release of QT, the KDE graphical framework, that will run natively on the proprietary operating system.

Ralf Habacker, a KDE developer who initiated a project to port the Linux desktop to Windows, said over the weekend that a native Windows port for Qt, the KDE graphical framework, will be released under the General Public License (GPL).

"The native GPLed port of QT/Win 3.3.3 will reach production state soon," said Habacker.

He said that people who have used the native port to build releases of Linux applications have only reported "minor problems".

At present, KDE fans who want to run the desktop on Windows have to use the Unix emulator Cygwin, which reduces performance. Habacker said in a recent post on the Sourceforge forum that performance is likely to be improved by running KDE natively on Windows.

The 'KDE on Cygwin' project team believes a Windows port is important as Microsoft users can try the open source desktop without switching their operating system, according to the project Web site.

"We think that KDE is a great desktop and has the opportunity to be a big player in the 'desktop environment' area," said a posting on the project's Web site. "Windows is the OS of choice for many companies. How does this square with the promotion of KDE? The answer is simple: build something that allows KDE applications to run atop Windows. This is the goal we are aiming for with this project."

But some KDE developers disagree that the desktop should be made available on Windows, and Habacker agreed there are differing opinions over the project. "Some developers like this idea, some do not," said Habacker. "The first group sees more the practical advantages, while the latter has more political objectives."

KDE developer Aaron Seigo said in a recent blog posting that making open source applications such as KDE, Firefox and OpenOffice available on Windows, means that users are less likely to switch to Linux on the desktop.

"By porting Free Software to Windows one increases the number of valuable applications on that platform," said Seigo. "Since application availability is a key factor in operating system usage, we can do the math pretty easily: if Windows has Microsoft applications plus the stable of Free Software apps while desktop Linux/BSD/etc has only the Free Software apps, why would anyone in their right mind switch to Linux/BSD (and incur the training and data migration costs) when they already have all the software they need and want right in front of them? They have no reason to. None. Ergo, they won't."


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