On February 6th, 2012, from the fingertips of Jonathan Riddell came the following announcement:

Today I bring the disappointing news that Canonical will no longer be funding my work on Kubuntu after 12.04. Canonical wants to treat Kubuntu in the same way as the other community flavors such as Edubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu, and support the projects with infrastructure. This is a big challenge to Kubuntu of course and KDE as well.

The practical changes are I won’t be able to work on KDE bits in my work time after 12.04 and there won’t be paid support for versions after 12.04. This is a rational business decision, Kubuntu has not been a business success after 7 years of trying, and it is unrealistic to expect it to continue to have financial resources put into it.

I have been trying for the last 7 years to create a distro to show the excellent KDE technology in its best light, and we have a lovely community now built around that vision, but it has not taken over the world commercially and shows no immediate signs of doing so despite awesome successes like the world’s largest Linux deployment.

Although I don’t regularly use the latest KDE desktop and as much business sense as this makes, I still read this with a heavy heart. This marks the loss of the last major distribution to ship with a KDE desktop. Yes, you can still get Kubuntu; you can find releases of other distributions with KDE; you can even install KDE alongside of your current desktop. But try to find a major Linux distribution that ships with KDE as the default desktop. You’re going to be hard pressed to do so.

But that doesn’t mean KDE is dead — nor will it ever die. Why? Because KDE very well represents the open source spirit and is the last remaining Linux desktop that resembles that standard desktop metaphor. For this very reason, KDE cannot die. This is also, I believe, one of the unspoken, underlying reasons Canonical dropped KDE.

It’s not Unity.

This is probably an ugly truth few want to mention. And although I highly respect what Canonical and Ubuntu has done for the Linux world — I have to think that any competition on the Linux desktop would be seen as bad business for Canonical. Why? They have a product they have bet the bank on. That product is Ubuntu Unity. And although it’s not a bad product, it’s a very different product than what the computing world is used to. Now, I have watched that same community accept change over time. And even though they do so begrudgingly, if you offer them a product that works, and works efficiently, they will (over time) accept your product. They did it with Windows 7 and they’ll do it with Windows 8. Eventually, that same community will accept both GNOME 3 and Unity. But for the time being, Canonical cannot risk the majority of its users jumping ship and migrating from the official Ubuntu with Unity, to the other official Ubuntu with KDE. So the obvious choice was to drop Kubuntu as an official distribution.

The dropping of Kubuntu does a number of things:

  • It means it will get no financial support from Canonical.
  • The distribution will lose what little marketing it received from Canonical.
  • Kubuntu most likely will flounder and die.

Something radical could (and should) come out of this. I would like to see the KDE team create a new distribution of Linux and simple call it KOS — no silly take on the name “Linux”. Just KOS. This would focus every KDE-centric developer on creating a distribution with the sole purpose of supporting an outstanding desktop. This would do so much for KDE and would bring a far stronger distribution to light than would another Kubuntu.

Otherwise, what’s going to happen is that Kubuntu will fall into the same obscure pile as Xubuntu, Edubuntu, and all the other *buntus out there. KDE does not deserve such a fate. KDE is one of the most polished, professional desktops available for the Linux operating system and deserves to be made available through some official channel.

I would hate to see KDE wind up nothing more than an alternative desktop that can be installed from within the Add/Remove Software tool. I’ve used KDE (on and off) since it’s beta release and know how passionate the KDE developers are and how solid the product is. I sincerely hope the loss of Canonical’s support for Kubuntu doesn’t serve as yet another blow to the “K” Desktop Environment. Linux without KDE is simply not the Linux I’ve known and loved since the mid-90s.