Novell backs down over KDE support

Pressure from users forces rethink

Novell has backed down on a decision to end support for the KDE desktop on the Suse Linux distribution, following an outcry from users.

Early in November, reports revealed that Novell was planning to make Gnome the default interface on Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) and Novell Linux Desktop (NLD) lines. Suse has historically been closely linked with KDE, and has indeed given KDE its most significant exposure.

At the end of last week, however, Novell made an about-face on the issue. "All future enterprise-class Linux product releases, including Novell Linux Desktop, Suse Linux Enterprise Server and Novell Open Enterprise Server, will continue to ship with both the Gnome and KDE desktop environments," wrote PR manager Kevan Barney on Novell's PR blog.

Users will be given a choice of either interface, but by default Gnome will be installed, Barney says. He said the decision won't affect current customers, and that Novell will continue to invest in and support both Gnome and KDE.

The decision was made after "a lot of debate over the last few days in the media and on message boards", Barney says.

The turmoil over Novell's decision to make Gnome the default desktop interface on Suse Linux appears to be connected with broader changes within Novell, according to industry observers. Several high-ranking Suse executives have left the company in recent months, most recently Suse co-founder Hubert Mantel.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Novell is integrating both Suse and Ximian, which makes Gnome-based desktop software. The differences between Ximian and Suse appear to have created difficulties, according to industry observers. "There was always going to be a tension within the organisation," says RedMonk analyst James Governor.

The switch to Gnome and tensions with Ximian appeared to have influenced the decision of Mantel, Suse's chief kernel maintainer, to leave the company. "This is no longer the company I founded 13 years ago," Mantel wrote in a resignation email. "I'm very confident the Novell management will find a competent successor very quickly. After all, there are lots of extremely skilled people over there in the Ximian division."

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