KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

Summary: KDE, one of the leading Linux desktops, is taking dead aim at Android and Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets.

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If another group was trying to take on Android and Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets, I'd dismiss them. RIM, BlackBerry's parent company, is having a heck of a time getting anyone to buy into PlayBook and while HP TouchPad users loved it,HP killed the TouchPad after only a few weeks. So, why should anyone think that KDE, makers of one of the two most popular Linux desktops, should stand a chance with Plasma Active? Well, because KDE has a long history of delivering the goods with minimal resources.

So what is it? Plasma Active is not, like Android, iOS, or webOS, an operating system. It's a KDE 4.x style interface and application programming interface (API) designed for touch devices. The Plasma Active Team states that "Plasma Active is innovative technology for an intelligent user experience (UX). It is intended for all types of tablets, smartphones and touch computing devices such as set-top boxes, smart TVs, home automation, in-vehicle infotainment. The goals for this KDE open source project are:

  • A fast embedded UX platform with minimal memory requirements
  • Customizable and modular to support different form factors
  • An interface that adapts as users change Activities.

In their GrandMaster Plan, the developers go into more detail about how they'll do this: "Plasma Active runs on the proven Linux desktop stack, including the Linux kernel, Qt and KDE's Plasma Framework. The user interface is designed using Plasma Quick, a declarative markup language allowing for organic user interface design based on Qt Quick. Plasma Active uses existing free desktop technology and brings it to a spectrum of devices through a device-specific user interface. Classical Plasma Widgets can be used on Plasma Active as well as newly created ones. The key driver for the development of Plasma Active is the user experience. Collaboration is made easy through high-level development tools and a well defined process. "

"The first release of Plasma Active fully focuses on tablet computers. Plasma Active Tablet's user experience is designed around the web, social networks and multimedia content." Today, Plasma Active runs on MeeGo and the openSUSE-based Balsam Professional (German language site). There are also OS images for Intel-based tablets, and package builds for ARM and x86 platforms. The group is working flashable images for ARM platforms. The interface will also run on Oracle's VirtualBox virtual machine. If you want to try it you can find downloads and instructions at the Plasma Active Installation page.

According to Sebastian Kügler, one of Plasma Active's leading developers Plasma Active is "certainly meant as a replacement for iOS and Android, a completely open, community-driven project with strong backing by a group of (SMB-sized) businesses. We hope this appeals to many hardware vendors, and have in fact already started talking with some. The feedback so far was very good, and the concepts seem to appeal with potential partners. There is definitely demand for an open system without lock-in in the market for devices."

Kügler also told me that they "have started investigating Tizen, [Intel and the Linux Foundations' proposed replacement for MeeGo] but at this point, there is too little information out, and too many unknowns. We do see Tizen as a potential and likely target platform, but before Intel and Samsung release an SDK, our hands are tied. It's not stopping us, since in the meantime, we can still run our stuff on MeeGo and Balsam, and we are investigating, together with the Mer team [Another mobile Linux operating system] how to get Plasma Active onto Mer.

That's all well and good but does KDE have any industry support for this? Kügler replied, "My employer, open-slx backs this project, and we are actively working towards creating a wider ecosystem of companies around Plasma Active, to make good commercial support available, next to the community resources. This includes OEMs, ODMs and companies that can deliver support around Plasma Active, for example integration with new hardware platforms, support for custom-build OS images, 3rd party software, end-user support, etc."

To that, I might add that unlike other such mobile projects, KDE starts with a large number of open-source applications that already run with it. That's an advantage that neither RIM nor HP had. Personally, it's hard for me to see a competitor to Android or iOS getting traction, but I've learned over the years not to bet against the KDE team.

Related Stories:

Is the PlayBook about to get killed? No way, says RIM

Intel, Linux Foundation drop MeeGo for Tizen

Gingerbread chasing Froyo; Ice Cream Sandwich unveiling delayed

iOS 5 GM on Sept 23; publicly available on Oct 10?

Linus Torvalds would like to see a GNOME fork

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Software, Operating Systems, Open Source, Mobility, Mobile OS, Linux, Laptops, Hardware, Tablets

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32 comments
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  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    I would dismiss them anyway, they cannot get desktop users to try it let alone mobile users who have no idea what it is.

    Crud, the majority Linux users won't even touch it.
    slickjim
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @Peter Perry +1
      MicroNix
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @Peter Perry <br><br>"the majority Linux users won't even touch it."?<br><br>Facts for this claim? IIRC most every distro on earth either features KDE or offers it, so your trolling here makes no sense. <br><br>I may think personally that, for example, XFCE and Gnome 2 look like Windows 98, but I wouldn't call them crud. We are all for the betterment of open source.
      dequire
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @Peter Perry

      I am surprised that posts can span alternate universes. In my universe, majority linux desktop users run KDE.
      vasu5
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @Peter Perry -1 minimum

      KDE's environment is what I run on the majority desktops/laptops I use and I enjoy it. They had their growing pains early in the switch to 4.0, but with 4.7 it is a better/more stable UI than Win7 or Mac. The Windowing behaviour is much more intuitive and refined than Win7 or Mac as well.
      admiraljkb
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @Peter Perry

      Ahhhh, what? Majority won't touch it. Well, technically true, not more than 50%. But it's between KDE and Gnome for the most popular desktop in Linux. I've used KDE for years. Really like the KDE4 series since about 4.3. Been able to do stuff with that on a laptop and desktop that Win7 claims to have invented quite a while before Win7 was released. Give them a little time and they will have a great product to put on touch devices.
      benched42
  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    That screenshot looks suspiciously like Stardock's Fences application for Windows. COPYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    kidding. It does drive me crazy though when everybody whines about OSes "copying" each other.
    CobraA1
    • Don't copy that floppy!

      @CobraA1
      nt
      Dietrich T. Schmitz *Your
      • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

        @Dietrich T. Schmitz * Your Linux Advocate
        what is "L" - lesbian lover ?
        vasu5
    • Actually

      @CobraA1

      I'm amazed by how much MS has 'borrowed' from KDE over the years.

      Kudos to the KDE folks. They do amazing work!
      Tim Patterson
  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    Steven, agree with your comment it would be hard to go up against Android or iOS.

    Time will tell if KDE or any other project can compete. Gnome project for example.
    daikon
  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    I was just at Slashdot reading a summary about Ice Cream Sandwich in which it was touted as "making iOS look old."<br><br>We see KDE taking aim at iOS.<br><br>Friends, and I say this with full respect for what KDE is doing, if you are designing something to be not something else, you've set your sites too low.<br><br>Phone manufacturers and carriers will be asking "How can we make more money with this than what we are currently using?" Consumers will be asking what can I do with this and how easily, if the manufacturers and carriers are on board.<br><br>I think beating iOS by direct assault is futile. If you guys want to win, you have to disrupt iOS and that is very unlikely without somebody who is taking responsibility for hardware and software. (Regarding Android market share, and "winning," don't we suspect that with patent deals, Microsoft is making more revenue on Android than Google? Isn't it likely that Google may get tired of putting in its money so Microsoft gets the downstream results?)<br><br>On a personal note, KDE started changing the way I had to work a few years back. Unlinke Lion, where I saw an upside to desktop/trackpad/multi-touch gestures, and I've adapted to the interface changes, I just didn't see the point on the Linux desktops and now I use XFCE. Not all change is bad, but change without direct salesmanship, as in this is why you will want to do it this way, is whistling in the wind. "It's going to be better than what you're using now when we finish it, find a partner and bring it to market!" is not very compelling.

    Build the best thing you can within the logic of the use case and to heck with common wisdom, but play their game and realize they wrote the rules.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    So with Android there's no "market lock in", companies can do whatever they want with it (look at Amazon's Fire tablet) and it is insanely popular.

    KDE is *not* a name I associate with an intuitive interface. I'm gonna call this one DOA.
    MicroNix
  • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

    Gee that picture almost looks like live tiles ;-)
    tonymcs1
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @tonymcs@...

      And you thought m$ was the originator.
      Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

        @Return_of_the_jedi

        Considering this came out over a year after WP7 debuted... yeah, the copying accusation makes no sense.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

      @tonymcs@...

      Looks nothing like live tiles.
      daikon
    • Who Was First?

      @tonymcs@... Those "live tiles", as you describe them, date back to KDE 4.0, which was officially launched in January 2008.

      What other software had it before then?
      ldo17
      • RE: KDE takes on Android, Apple's iOS on smartphones and tablets

        @ldo17

        the xbox and media center
        Viper589
  • Come back in 12 months

    If this follows normal Linux desktop patterns, in 12 months there will be just as many delivered phones using this interface as, well, today, a big fat zero.

    Label this one DOA in my opinion. Nothing new, just free. There is a better solution.
    Cynical99