At first I was thinking to title this report, "Report: KDE at Comdex". You're thinking, well, that's what you did. Big deal. However, I then changed my mind and started to write a report entitled "Microsoft is Afraid". I think this is the most appropriate title. Then I realized that no-one would know what the real topic is, so I changed it back.
As many of you know, KDE was one of the winners in the O'Reilly contest to send six open source projects to Comdex. I went to Las Vegas to represent KDE, and brought my brother Matthew to help with the hordes of interested people.
The Comdex floor show opened on Monday, November 17. However, Bill Gates had his keynote speech on Sunday evening. We were able to attend in person, and it was an enlightening experience. Others have pointed out the behavior of Microsoft, and how they appear to follow the words of Gandhi: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win." Well Microsoft did follow just this pattern. Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer made a rather sad looking video of them taking on the roles of Morpheus and Neo in "The Matrix". The agents were Linux users, and their "kernel crashed" prompting them to "rewrite all of their drivers". Neo then had to make the choice of the little red Microsoft pill, or the "big blue, hard to swallow, IBM/Linux" pill. Ridiculing Linux may seem like a decent approach to them, but I think it shows how afraid they really are. They are preparing for a big fight (more to come on this). That being said, I think Bill Gates could use some public speaking lessons. He's not very charismatic. Perhaps I just expected too much from a billionaire philanthropist.
The KDE presence consisted of a small podium in the "Open Source Innovation Center", and was of course funded by O'Reilly. We had two laptops, a Dell Inspiron and an Apple Powerbook, both running random snapshots of KDE from CVS-HEAD. It was daring, but I don't recall encountering any problems in the course of demos. We occupied the podium for half of each day we were there, sharing it with other projects for the rest of the day.
Our demos mainly consisted of overviews of KDE, showing Konqueror, Kontact, KDevelop, Kopete, and other applications. We also had Kolab setup, but I don't recall anyone interested in seeing it in action. They were just interested that we even had such a thing, and then wanted to see the client. Despite all of this, the most popular features by far were Kiosk mode - for administrators/IT people - and Qt Designer - for developers. People were completely amazed with the power of Qt and Designer. It seems that many don't realize how powerful it can be. As for Kiosk mode, it is truly a "killer feature" for KDE. However, we need a GUI for this badly. We also need better, more centralized documentation.
It seems as though there is a list of important features that people need for accepting KDE (or even just Linux) on the desktop:
- Office Suite - OpenOffice is the only choice presently
- Groupware Client - Kontact looks promising, perhaps better than Evolution
- Browser - Mozilla is there, but I don't see anyone having problems using Konqueror instead
- Easy Updates - Right now we leave this up to the distro. Perhaps a bad idea, perhaps not
- Remote Administration - We're getting there
- Kiosk Operation - Here, KDE is king in infrastructure. We just need a UI
- Basic Accessibility, Usability - We're as usable as other desktops, but we need better accessibility
Among the visitors to the KDE booth were CIOs, CEOs, VPs and Presidents of
major companies and smaller businesses, students, hobbyists, journalists, and
professionals. I was stunned to see executives from Fortune 500 companies
coming by for a demo of KDE, saying that it was their favorite desktop and that they hope that we continue to do such a good job so they can adopt KDE for desktop deployments in the future. I was most, and least, surprised by one class of visitor though. We had regular visits from Microsoft
employees! They wanted demos of KDE, to see how it works and what we have.
What an interesting situation. I soon discovered that this was not the only
place that Microsoft people were doing investigations.
On Tuesday there was a Linux Desktop conference in the afternoon. I decided it would be worthwhile to go to that, and while I was stuck at the booth for quite a while and ended up being 15 minutes late, I still managed to catch a significant portion of it. KDE (on SUSE) was used as the demonstration desktop on the screen, and the panel was quite supportive of KDE. I think this is partially because of Xandros and Lindows using KDE as well. I did not see any trace of Lindows people around, although my understanding is that they should have been there.
While the talk was going on, I heard some furious typing behind my back. I
turned around and could see someone two rows back writing on one of those
tablet PCs that nobody buys. I turned around further and there was someone
beside him typing on a laptop - whew, I wasn't insane! I wondered who was so
interested in this conference, and I tried to see their badges. They were
hidden, but as the talk ended I waited around until they got up. Microsoft.
I am not sure if I got their names right but according to LinuxWorld they were General Manager of Microsoft TV Marketing, Alan Yates, and Pascal Stoltz, director of Microsoft's Information Worker Group - the group producing Office, Visio, FrontPage, etc. Seems like someone is really interested in Linux on the desktop!
Overall the experience was great for KDE. I think our presence alone was
enough to help introduce KDE to a crowd that really wasn't too familiar with
Linux at all, let alone a Linux based desktop. I would like to thank O'Reilly
for their help and for giving us this wonderful opportunity. I would also
like to thank John Taber and the Las Vegas LUG for their help at the booth.