This is how KDE as a project and brand is currently perceived in the IT market. This information is gleaned from a lot of anecdotal data, so please take everything with a grain of salt.
Despite being quite mature in many aspects, KDE's frameworks and libraries do not seem to be used or, indeed, known much outside of the KDE community. We have had several (admittedly anecdotal) experiences in which organisations and companies that we thought would've known better, were completely ignorant of what KDE had to offer.
- The Plasma Desktop has a low penetration, but is generally regarded as a high quality product. Very high ratio of developers to users.
- Many applications are quite well known (Krita, Kdenlive), but users do not associate them with KDE (see Brand later). Otherwise, while excellent dwell in total obscurity.
- Frameworks are surprisingly underused outside the KDE community. Even many FLOSS projects are ignorant of what we do.
According to many accounts, the community is not what it used to be. This is true about activism in the FLOSS world in general: people grow older, find time-absorbing jobs, have families and have less time to give away. Also FLOSS is not perceived as an exciting, pioneering, revolutionary thing like it used to be, so a younger generation is not that interested.
- The KDE community is shrinking. According to testimonies of old-timers and numbers of attendees at events, there is a decline of active community members from a peak that was reached in 2013.
- The community is largely homogeneous with regard to gender, race, class and geographical extraction, being made up mainly by white male middle class European engineers
- There is a large ratio of developers to users. This comes about in part from the philosophy of "scratch your own itch" which is pervasive in FLOSS development: Developers are often the consumers of their own development. In KDE, however, this is a bit more diluted and can attributed to the fact that KDE technologies are not that well-known outside our community.
- The KDE brand is recognised within the FLOSS community, even though many of the products are not. That said, KDE is still being used as a synonym of "Plasma desktop" by most FLOSS community members not associated with KDE.
- Anecdotal (but not unique) evidence collected at external conferences seems to indicate that the KDE brand is not known outside the FLOSS community.
- Some popular apps are not associated with our brand, despite being fostered within our community.
- Domestic usage is probably lower than 1%: if we take the figures that say that users of the Linux desktop make up little more than 2% of the market, and taking into account that by most measures, Gnome is the most pervasive of the Linux desktops, it stands to reason that KDE's Plasma desktop is used by less than 1% of the desktop users worldwide.
- Professional usages is probably also very low:"Professional" as in use in offices, hospitals, schools, public administrations, etc. If we have learnt anything from things like Wannacry and other virus crisis is that the most public institutions and big companies use proprietary tools that are also outdated.
- Progress in getting KDE tech on devices: That said, we have made progress in getting KDE software (especially the Plasma) preinstalled onto devices. The KDE Slimbook I and II, the Pinebook (although not as a default) and our ongoing work to get Plasma Mobile onto the Librem 5 and other devices, are examples of the headway we are making.
Long Term Goals
The main aim in this section is to increase project sustainability be adding more developers and acquiring better and more stable financing. One way of doing this would be to increase the usage of the KDE frameworks and software in general in companies.
- Increase adoption of frameworks in development companies. In part, by increasing the userbase and the use of KDE software in non-techie organisations, we may increase the interest of third party companies to ramp up the use of our frameworks to develop their own software. The ultimate goal is to create a sustainable businesses ecosystem in which it makes sense for companies to develop, sell and mainatain KDE-based software, both for users and for other businesses.
- Increase *support* from companies and organisations. This has to do with "selling" our technology to other companies and having them adapt it to their own needs, in the hope that they will pour resources back into the community, in the shape of more developers, sponsorships and upstream improvements on existing software. One way to make this happen is (and we are currently implementing) is by attending external events. These are technologically-oriented and, thus, attended by developers from other projects and the companies that employ them. By attending these events with speakers and booths, we hope to attract attention from a larger audience in the IT sector.
For KDE community
- Increase diversity: At the moment, the community is composed mainly by white male Europeans. The goal would be to increase the number of under-represented genders, ethnicities and people with disabilities, so that we can tap undiscovered talent, receive input and help from a larger slice of the population, and better adapt KDE's software to the needs of wider selection of the population. The ultimate goal would be to have the same proportion of men, women, and other genders as there are in the real world, likewise have representation of the largest number of ethnicities as possible among contributors. Take page from Wikimedia's playbook on how to encourage under-represented groups to participate in KDE's community. Implement and enforce strict CoC against discrimination and harassment. Also, move main event (Akademy) away from Europe and encourage sprints and events in other places, like Asia, South America and Africa.
- Achieve a sustained growth of the number contributors: Increase by 50% the number of active contributors and volunteers every year. To stop the community from shrinking further and, if possible, reverse that trend, we can again use the effort to push for diversity. While activism of FLOSS in the Europe and North America has decreased, in developing countries FLOSS is very much a nascent movement, akin to what it was like in Europe and the US in the early 2000s. This is a demographic KDE can cater to and, in the process, bring new blood with new perspectives into the community. This would be a mid-to-long term solution.
- Acquire more sponsors: A bigger community means more expenses. We would need to guarantee that KDE remains operational by, among other things attracting stable sponsorships. Also, by increasing the number of sponsors, KDE does not have a a two big dependence on any one sponsor in particular, which helps the community maintain its independence. We would need to determine what reasonable increment of sponsors we want to achieve. Apart from working with companies as mentioned in the *For Technology* section above, we can also jump start interest in sponsoring KDE projects by attending events which management from corporations also attend. We want to deliver talks to CTOs and have booths to showcase KDE's solutions. In part, this strategy is already being implemented.
We want to increase brand awareness across the board.
- KDE should become a household name. Tech-literate users should be able to identify KDE applications, Plasma, Plasma Mobile, and so on the same way the can differentiate Android, iOS, Windows and macOS. Companies developing software with GUIs should consider KDE technologies, like Kirigami for their products. It is unlikely that KDE will become recognised on its software merits alone. This is where standard advertising, ad stunts, and things beyond the solely technological will have to come into play.
- We also want to become recognised as a provider of quality software. We would need to make sure QA is carried out on all projects associated with our brand and they abide by KDE's core vision.
- We will also want reinforce KDE's brand through popular applications. We will want to ask application project leaders to push the KDE brand front and centre to increase brand awareness in users. We are in the first stages of discussing this at T9122.
Increase number of end-users by
- Taking over niches, like education, science & research, art, etc.
- Getting KDE software preinstalled on devices, something that is already happening in a limited fashion. We want to establish ties with manufacturers and help them and support them to get Plasma, Plasma Mobile, and the rest of KDE's ecosystem working on their devices. A longer term aim would be to have major device manufacturers (HP, Asus, Dell, Acer, LG, Samsung...) ship devices with Plasma and KDE applications pre-installed, be them laptops, tablets, phones or smart appliances (TVs, fridges, etc.).
- Increasing the presence of KDE software in companies by looking for enterprise partners (SUSE, KDAB, Qt, etc.) that can help support companies that would like to adopt KDE software and need technical corporate backing.
- Increasing the number of domestic users, which maybe achieved by striking deals with hardware providers to supply them with OEM versions of KDE-based distributions. Related to getting KDE-based software pre-installed on devices mentioned above.
Please post suggestions, ideas for additional goals, or improvements to the ones described above in the comments.