Convergence: Kubuntu edition
Ubuntu's Unity desktop isn't the only project chasing a goal of convergence . Plasma 5.0 has a "converged Plasma shell." This shell lays a base that can adapt to present different experiences on different devices.
These user experiences can be switched between while the Plasma 5.0 shell is running. So, if you plug in a keyboard and mouse, a tablet running Plasma 5.0 in tablet-experience mode could automatically switch to desktop-experience mode. This is sort of like the "Continuum" feature Microsoft is planning for Windows 10, but hasn't yet released.
To be fair, KDE doesn't have this working yet either. Plasma 5.0 just features a desktop experience for the Plasma shell. Tablet and media-center experiences are also on the roadmap, but haven't been created yet. KDE's "Plasma Active" software actually launched on tablets in the past, but they weren't a success.
Even more changes
There are other changes, too. The application launcher has gone through a visually redesign and the notification applets have been streamlined with less pop-up windows. KDE's Plasma 5.0 announcement summarizes these changes with the words: "Central work-flows have been streamlined, while well-known overarching interaction patterns are left intact."
In other words, they've streamlined the interface and made it faster to use without performing any jarring interface changes. If you're used to KDE 4, you'll immediately feel right at home with Plasma 5.0. Plasma 5.0 shouldn't bring the teething pains that big desktop redesigns like GNOME Shell, Unity, and even KDE 4 brought.
What's next for KDE
Plasma 5.0 still isn't done, and KDE's announcement makes it clear that some features are absent. The Kubuntu project also notes there are some missing pieces, but they should be filled in during the next six months before Plasma 5.0 becomes the default desktop environment on Kubuntu.
In the long run, new and redesigned KDE applications will show up and demonstrate the KDE project's intelligent vision of software that's "Simple By Default, Powerful When Needed."
But don't just read summaries. Try it yourself! Grab Kubuntu 14.10 Plasma 5 Tech Preview images from the Kubuntu project's download page and play with them yourself. Put them on a disc or USB drive and boot the live system, or fire them up in a virtual machine.
Plasma 5 ran well in VirtualBox for me, and all the fancy graphics stuff worked well without any tweaking required. You'll be asked for a password, but the password is blank--just press Enter to start experiencing the future of KDE.
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