Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 for KDE: the financial perspective

2012, a great year for KDE


2012 has been an important year for KDE from many perspectives. KDE e.V. turned 15 years old, Nokia finally quit Qt and a new ecosystem lead by Digia is laying on KDE to get mature. We have published our Manifesto, that is the result of long internal and very interesting conversations (I wouldn't call them discussions) about who we are, how did we get here and what we want. ALERT, out first experience in EU R&D projects, is now a reality. KDE has broken every record in the GSoC program, our KDE 4 series is getting mature and attention is coming back little by little to our software since users are understanding that we are delivering what we promised. Plasma is way more than a crazy idea and now many people perceive how powerful can be, not in a few years, but in a few months.

Applications like Krita, Calligra, Dolphin, etc. are getting more and more popular and others, that lost track in the past, like Kontact, are recovering the favor of many users since improvements and better integration with Akonadi and Nepomuk (semantic desktop), are becoming obvious. We feel that more and more people recognize us as a key member of the Free Software ecosystem, not just for our software, but also for our commitment with freedom and our well desired reputation as serious and stable organization.

Financial situation


2012 has been the year in which Nokia showed us once again that corporations can become your best allies, but also that their commitment with freedom and specific technologies are strong only as far as they are compatible with their strategy, which  can vary quiet fast. Once again, KDE has shown others that strong principles are a great base for not just surviving, but digesting changes.

Our economic model, like many other FLOSS community projects, was based on the support of big corporations that invested in us as R&D environments (they were interested in our technologies), as cheap talent ecosystems (recruiting well formed young developers) and as branding feeders (investing in community projects has positive effects in company reputation).

But that support to upstream project, specially to desktops, from big corporations, has been reduced the last few years for different reasons. We are not the next year big thing in the desktop/mobile space anymore and that have a reflection in our financial situation. Many of those who have supported us in the past, link success to market share. That has never been our battle but, we did very little to fight against that wave. It was profitable.

So our past economic model, is drained and we need to adapt ourselves to a new field in which SMB (Small and Medium size Business) and individual support must become more relevant. Since previous Boards made a good job, we can face today those challenges with little risk, in financial terms, taking the required time to make the internal changes that, if we do them right, will define our future in this area the following five years. As simple as that.

This model change will take some time. This 2012 we have taken relevant decisions and some more are coming in 2013. Results must become clear in 2014. This is a very tough sector and it is very risky to make plans, but I have faith in the path initiated in 2012. Many Free Software projects around us are growing like hell. We have to catch up a little, yes, but we have been here long enough to understand that running is not always the fastest way to get to the finish line... and frequently not the healthiest.

2013 goals


Our major goal for 2013 is to get take more steps toward sustainability, in a very volatile environment.

How do we want to achieve this from the financial perspective?

There are two main work lines:
  1. Reducing our exposure to market changes.
  2. Becoming a more flexible organization.

In this journey, we will need everybody's support. As a technical community, finances haven't been a priority for our members. This do not have to change in the future since KDE e.V. is here to support KDE community. Just a little more collective focus will be needed. More communication effort from our side, as Board/Organization, and from those involved in this area, will speed up the process. We are already working on it.

I feel lucky of playing a key role in KDE these days. I am having fun and I am optimistic about our future in the financial area. If during 2013 we confirm the switch we began this year, we will have a good platform for growing healthy and strong the following years.

How can you help us?


If you are a KDE community member, please consider joining KDE e.V. If you are simply a KDE user or fan, you can get involved in our project as contributor or, if you do not have time to invest, please consider supporting us economically through our Join the Game program. KDE financial activity is summarized in our Quarterly Reports, you can download in .pdf format. 
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