Kubuntu, the KDE-based derivative of Ubuntu, is entering a new era. Blue Systems will be sponsoring Kubuntu from the 12.10 cycle starting in May. Canonical recently stopped sponsoring Jonathan Riddell's work on KDE. Jonathan gave indications of this sponsorship during a recent meeting when he asked if it was OK with the Technical Board of Ubuntu if someone else sponsored Kubuntu.
What does this sponsorship mean for Kubuntu?
In an exclusive interview with Muktware Jonathan Riddell told us, "Blue Systems will sponsor my time to work on it and will have a budget for conference travel (e.g. to UDS and Akademy) as well as Kubuntu promotion such as CDs or posters."
Jonathan will no longer be working as a Canonical employee. He will be leaving Canonical after the Ubuntu Developer Summit. "But I'll be working with Canonical just as any Ubuntu developer works with Canonical. I expect to keep being an important part of the Ubuntu project e.g. by being a release driver or archive administrator," says Jonathan.
How Much Will Change?
So, the next question would be, how much will change after this new sponsorship? Jonathan told me, "I expect no changes in the way Kubuntu works. We will still be part of Ubuntu which uses Launchpad as the platform for code hosting, package management, bugs etc."
We have already witnessed how changing hands can change the development of a project in LibreOffice. OpenOffice has stagnated and did have any future under Sun/Oracle and post its fork by the Document Foundation we are seeing a rapid release cycle with some major announcements coming by the end of the year. We may see the same growth of Kubuntu.
Kubuntu has never had any team lead, will that change after this transition? Jonathan says, "Kubuntu has never had a team lead. Like KDE we have always a community with equality as an important team value. (Or equality testimony as us Quakers put it.) There are advantages and disadvantages to having that structure but it works well for us."
Kubuntu Will Be The First Class Citizen
Critics always maintained that Kubuntu was a second citizen at Canonical overshadowed by Ubuntu. Canonical's increased focus on Unity was a clear indicator of what future held for Kubuntu. KDE is an amazing desktop environment (which doesn't get the hype that it deserves). I have often talked about the advantages KDE has over other desktop environments. It is a perfect DE for home and enterprise usage. In times when Windows 8 is arriving with a new UI (which according to many is destined to fail) Linux is at advantage by swinging those sitting at the fence.
KDE: Back In Business
KDE is extremely customizable, yet offers the same "familiar" desktop interface which can help IT admins in moving users to GNU/Linux without having to waste resources on retraining them. IT may be a challenge for IT admins to convince their bosses to switch to GNU/Linux and invest in traning on a new interface and a new system. With KDE there is no learning curve. IT admins may be sweating at the thought of retraining users as they upgrade their LTS to Ubuntu 12.04. In my opinion Kubuntu solves many problems:
- Makes it easier for people to migrate to GNU/Linux without having to relearn how to use their systems.
- Makes it easier for those to continue using 'Ubuntu' with a familiar interface
- Makes it easier for enthusiasts to take full control over their computing as KDE is one of the most advanced desktop environment with full customization.
Kubuntu has already been successful on the enterprise front as Jonathan says that Kubuntu rollouts include the world's largest Linux desktop in Brazil. Jonathan is excited about this sponsorship and says, "With this new sponsorship we will have the independence to give the project new wings and take the excellent KDE Software to new audiences."
Blue Systems sponsored Kubuntu may need a new name as "Canonical holds the Kubuntu trademark and gives a generous license for community use but does not allow commercial use. It's unclear if that means sponsorship such as we are getting is allowed. So we might have to end up renaming, that would be effort but not entirely bad as the current name makes people think it is only a 'derivative' of Ubuntu rather than one of many flavours within Ubuntu," says Jonathan.
His message to the larger KDE community is, "To any KDE developers I'd give a big hug and encourage them to carry on giving Kubuntu great software to ship. We will have some key KDE developers at the Ubuntu Developer Summit in May who will want to further the coordination with KDE and Unity through freedesktop.org etc."
I personally think that if Kubuntu wants to enter the market as an enterprise solution it does need a new name and a new branding.