The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and K Foundation are currently in discussions about bringing their rival Linux desktop environments closer together, but have so far failed to reach agreement over which organisation's component document model to adopt.
The rivalry between the two groups began when the K Foundation introduced a chargeable graphical user interface library called Qt into its K Desktop Environment (KDE) in 1996. The FSF objected to the move because the library was not made available for free under open source licensing rules and so it started its own rival project dubbed the GNU Network Object Model Environment (Gnome) in 1997.
But Miguel de Icaza, leader of the Gnome project, said: "We want to agree on interfaces that can be used by both parties to improve interoperability. The big drift is in the document models, which are incompatible, but we're talking to the K Foundation about making them compatible. You can currently run applications side by side, but not the document object model, which allows you to do drag and drop."
He continued: "We're having conversations now about bringing them closer together and maybe choosing one model that we'd both upgrade to and then drop the other. The K Foundation has said it may drop its middleware for ours and add Bonobo support to KDE, which would be very simple to implement."
But Kurt Granroth, a K Foundation spokesman, retorted that, while the two were certainly talking about standardising on certain Corba object interfaces, it had no intention of dropping its object model.
"I was unaware that Miguel is considering dropping Bonobo. We will certainly not drop KOM/Openparts as our component technology is quite mature and is very usable right now. There are many competing opinions on the merits (or lack thereof) of standardising on many of the low level details. But I think it is inevitable that much of the communication between applications and the desktop environment will be standardised," he said.
But he denied that such rivalry could lead to criticism, particuarly by Microsoft, that they were simply involved in a rerun of the old Unix wars.
"I think it is a moot point. KDE dominates the desktop market so much that for all practical purposes, there is only one [Linux desktop environment]."
The FSF, however, plans to release a "step up polishing release" of Gnome in the shape of version 1.2 by the end of the year to fix much criticised bugs in earlier releases. Version 2.0 is also due to follow by Spring 2000.
This will include a number of applications that are aimed at developers, including the Bonobo component document model to enable them to assemble large applications from components and to compile documents from a number of applications.
It will also incorporate the Pango display and print engine, the Glade graphical user interface builder, the Gnome VFS file transfer library for loading files from the Web, and the Gdome implementation of the World Wide Web Consortium's Dom engine, which enables documents to share data.
But the release is also intended to make Linux easier for users to use. Gnome's Miguel explained: "Part of the project is to revamp the user interface because users shouldn't have to know a lot about Linux. The aim is to let people be able to run their own systems, from kids to grandmothers, and I hope this will make it ubiquitous throughout the world."
He added: "This is not about bringing Linux to the desktop, but bringing it to the masses. It's a good quality operating system for people that are not Unix programmers and the aim is to make it mass market."
As a result, Gnome 2.0 will include a file manager that is similar in nature to Windows' and a customisable user interface.
The Gnome Workshop Project subgroup is also building a suite of productivity applications such as the Gnumeric spreadsheet that interoperates with Microsoft's Excel, the GNU Image Manipulation Program (Gimp) to enable users to manipulate and enhance images, the Gill vector drawing and paint application, and the Abiword word processor.
Another subgroup, dubbed Gnome Groupware, is also building a collaborative application suite, which includes email, a contact manager and calendaring and scheduling program.
Not to be outdone, however, the K Foundation, is also developing its own office bundle, dubbed Koffice, which is currently in alpha.
This includes Kpresenter, a presentation package, the Kspread spreadsheet, Killustrator vector drawing application, and Kword word processor. No shipment dates were available.
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