From: stormreaver
Written: 2009-06-14 11:18:11.179335
Subject: KDE On Windows

KDE developers are working towards allowing KDE applications to run on Windows. There are detractors who seem to either misunderstand the nature of the effort, or who can't (or refuse) to see its strategic benefits. Here are some of the reasons this project is necessary, and why it helps Free Software and hurts Microsoft.

1) KDE applications running on Windows do not use Windows APIs, but rather use KDE's APIs. Even KDE itself doesn't use Windows APIs on Windows. It uses Qt, which is the only part of the entire KDE API stack that uses Windows APIs directly. Since all KDE applications use only 100% KDE APIs, the applications are not tied to any one platform. This means that people who get introduced to KDE applications on Windows will be able to effortlessly use those same applications on Linux. This releases Microsoft's grip on the application platform, which is good for everyone except Microsoft.

2) There are many developers who are stuck on Windows (for whatever reason), but who want to contribute to KDE. Having the KDE libraries (and therefore KDE applications) buildable and runnable on Windows allows these developers to contribute to KDE. This widens the KDE developer pool, which is good for everyone except Microsoft.

3) I touched on this in reason 1 above, but I want to expand on it a little bit. People use applications, not operating systems. In a perfect world, all the applications on Windows would be ported to Linux, making the underlying operating system a flexible choice rather than the rigid lock that Microsoft has constructed. The basic fact, though, is that most Windows developers are not porting their applications to Linux. This locks people into Windows since they cannot move to Linux without losing their Windows applications and data. The only alternative within our control is to get users onto applications that exist on both Linux and Windows. It's hard enough to switch applications on the same operating system, but switching applications and operating systems at the same time is asking way too much of most users. If Windows users use cross-platform applications on Windows, then switching to Linux is almost trivial; they won't lose their data, and their learning curve will be drastically reduced. They won't have to learn new applications and a new operating system at the same time.

4) The KDE desktop is not the target of the port. Only the KDE libraries are being ported. The Windows shell (the desktop) will still be Windows. This means that users will not have to install an enormous number of libraries on Windows, but rather will have to install just the base KDE libraries.

The main argument I hear against the project is that if people don't have to move to Linux to use these applications, then they won't move to Linux. This is a very weak argument for a few reasons:

1) The vast majority of potential Linux users are already Windows users. Windows already has all the users it's going to get, and its margin for growth is negligible at best. There is nothing we or Microsoft can do to significantly increase its market penetration. The best Microsoft can hope for it is retain its current customer base, and to maintain or increase the prices paid by that customer base. For Microsoft, there is nowhere to go but down.

2) It should not be our objective to force people to change to Linux. The objective should be to make the transition as easy as possible for those who choose to move to Linux. People want to leave Windows for Linux, but they know there is going to be a culture shock in doing so. That alone is enough to make many people hesitant to switch. A culture shock coupled with the complete loss of familiarity within their applications is going to be a nearly impenetrable barrier. People are not going to endure the pain of a complete software stack switch except under extraordinary circumstances. We have to lessen (or eliminate) the pain involved in such a switch, and this project is a good way to accomplish that.

3) People are not going to switch to Linux to use these applications. But they might use these applications, and then start considering a switch to Linux. We are not going to gain many users by requiring a switch to Linux, but we might gain users if they can easily move back and forth between Linux and Windows. If we allow users to be operating system mobile, we greatly increase the potential for gaining permanent additional users. If everything else is equal, people will always choose the free option. Microsoft locks people into Windows by keeping them locked into Windows applications. Remove the application lock, and the operating system lock crumbles as well.

For those reasons, the KDE on Windows projects is a strategic necessity.
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