The end of KOffice, the end of KDE?

The KOffice brand is going away, will the KDE brand follow?

Here's some interesting news: KOffice, as a brand name, no longer exists. And with that change, I can't help but wonder if we are soon going to be looking at the end of the KDE name, as well.

It seems that the KDE community has decided to rename the KOffice project to the Calligra Suite project, as well as all the names of the individual applications within KOffice. So, KWord becomes Words, KSpread becomes Tables, and so forth. There's a table on the Calligra suite announcement that lists all of the changes.

Some might wonder why the KOffice brand got a revamp, especially to a brand that unfortunately comes rather close to the popular name for a certain First Century Roman emperor. (Seriously, am I the only one who had this pop into their head?)

First, let's define Calligra a bit: it's most prevalent use is as the name of a TrueType font set. It is not entirely clear if this was a related move, and I will be curious to see if someone shows up with a trademark objection. I hope not, since Calligra is clearly a diminization of calligraph, the act of writing beatifully. But, anyone who remembers the original name of the FireFox browser will know that such disputes can happen whehn you least expect them.

Second, the why. It's very apparent that this is a move to brand KOffice and its component applications away from the KDE desktop. More importantly, Calligra is trying to separate itself from desktops in general. This is confirmed in the announcement, too, in case you think I am making this up:

"The new name reflects the wider value of the KOffice technology platform beyond just desktop office applications. With a new name for the Suite and new names for the productivity applications, the Calligra community welcomes a new stage in the development of free productivity and creativity applications for desktop and mobile devices," the announcement reads.

The key word in that statement is right towards the end: "mobile." Like other application development projects, KDE sees a very fertile environment for growing into mobile platforms, and rebranding KOffice is a needed step for the KDE folks to get the perception of KOffice away from its former life as a desktop-centric office suite.

You don't have to look too far to see the first, er, mobile home for Calligra. Last month at the MeeGo Conference in Dublin, Inge Wallin and Suresh Chande showed off a free Qt-based office suite for the MeeGo platform. Given that Wallin is listed as the Calligra Marketing Coordinator on the Calligra announcement, it doesn't seem too far of a stretch to speculate he and his co-presenter were talking about Calligra for MeeGo, or something darn close to it.

If Calligra is indeed bound for MeeGo, the announcement comes none too soon: tomorrow, Google may be announcing the first laptop offering with its ChromeOS platform. That Calligra timed its announcement for today is likely no coincidence. ChromeOS, even though it has no official hardware offering yet, is getting a lot of hype, even as MeeGo still seems to be struggling to find its voice in the mobile/netbook market.

Given that Nokia, which combined its Maemo platform with Intel's Moblin to form the Linux Foundation-stewarded MeeGo project, manages the Qt codebase upon which Calligra and KDE is based, it's really no surprise that KOffice is being re-tooled as a desktop and a mobile platform.

What about KDE? Looking ahead at development of certain projects within the KDE ecosystem, I also have to wonder if we might someday see a name change for KDE as well. Remember, it stands for "K Desktop Environment," so if the interface itself is to be branded for a broader range of platforms, then it makes a certain amount of sense that the KDE brand might also be due for a renovation.

It has already happened: if you are strictly referring to the actual desktop interface software, which is known as Plasma. "Plasma" is the overarching family name for any of KDE's interfaces: there's Plasma Desktop, Netbook, Mobile, and Tablet interfaces, with very little "K" branding. Now, with the disappearance of the KOffice brand, I don't think it will be long before we see end of "KDE" as a name for this pantheon of software apps and interfaces.

I will be interested to see what form this rebranding will take. Plasma seems an obvious candidate, but the existing Plasma interfaces will want to keep from being confused with a broader Plasma project, so look for something else. Somewhere, I suspect, there's a marketing team working on this now. Hey, let's save the KDE team some money: what do you think the new name should be?

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