KDE 4: the ultimate business desktop?

Open source desktop adds enterprise information management tools

Since beginning as a one-person project over ten years ago, the fourth generation of the K Desktop Environment (KDE) is poised to be the most business-friendly open source desktop to date with a host of new features ideal for enterprises.

KDE 4 is now in rapid development and is scheduled for release sometime next year, with the final date still to be decided.

The project's Oceania representative, Hamish Rodda, told Computerworld there are several concerted efforts being made to improve the underlying KDE libraries.

"Some of the improvements include better hardware management, more streamlined multimedia control, and voice-over-IP integration," Rodda said.

Like many open source projects, KDE will run on a variety of Unix systems, the most popular being Linux.

Rodda said the step up to KDE version 4 from version 3 will be more revolutionary, in comparison to the step up from version 2 to version 3, which was more evolutionary.

"Certainly it will be a large improvement, but at the expense of a necessary delay in the otherwise regular release schedule of KDE," he said.

At the heart of KDE is the cross-platform Qt development toolkit from Tolltech, which Rodda believes will expand the potential audience for KDE, and its related software, because it is now GPL licensed on Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows.

"The toolkit on which KDE 4 is based, Qt 4, means that native KDE libraries and applications will be available cross-platform," Rodda said. "The update to Qt 4 will bring a significant performance increase with improvements to memory usage, application start-up, and responsiveness. The great thing about using Qt 4 is that application developers can be much more productive and achieve better results than was possible with Qt 3."

The other significant development will be the changes made to the underlying technologies and user interface. Enhancements over version 3 will include a redesigned desktop interface, better accessibility support, better hardware integration, integrated comprehensive search facilities, and continued improvement in integration between core applications.

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