The search for the true ‘Open PC’

I was fortunate enough this week to help conduct an interview with Frank Karlitschek who founded KDE-Look.org back in 2001, which has grown to become one of the biggest online communities for Linux.

I was fortunate enough this week to help conduct an interview with Frank Karlitschek who founded KDE-Look.org back in 2001, which has grown to become one of the biggest online communities for Linux. In 2007, Frank also went on to establish Open Desktop.org and its 35 communities and portals for desktop Linux.

What was most interesting about Frank was his take on the truly ‘Open PC’ as part of what he calls the ‘Social Desktop’ experience, another .org that he already has registered himself.

Frank’s stance on the current state of open source is that to his mind, the Linux and KDE community are not satisfied with the current Linux-based PCs from OEMs such as Acer or ASUS or Dell and so on.

“Users do not have influence on the hardware or software so they are basically getting a closed product and most of the pre configuration is not very user friendly. A lot of existing Linux PCs also rely on closed source drivers, which is not ideal,” said Stuttgart-based Frank.

… and you know I think he has a point, especially if you look at the super-scaled down iterations of Linux on netbooks shipping as recently as eighteen months ago.

You can’t install a whole lot on some of these smaller Linux boxes and if you do go looking for say Skype on Linux you had better be running a ‘popular’ flavour such as Ubuntu, Fedora etc. or you may just find yourself S out of luck.

Instead, Frank sees a broader ‘open PC world’ (a brand that will surely never make it to the high street!) where the community builds and designs its own open and Linux-based PC and all the software is available in a public repository and everybody can improve it.

As part of this concept, Frank says that, “We will only use hardware which is fully documented and which is fully supported by free device drivers. We will also bundle this with end user support and part of the income goes back to be used in free software projects like for example KDE.”

Success in this space according to community opinion will be largely down to effectively integrated online communities and the wider migration of web 2.0 principles into both desktop and mobile applications. So will the true open PC emerge in the next decade? Signs are that it will and it might not be long coming.