No Nokia prophecy, I promise!

Rodney Gedda

Rodney Gedda is the former deputy editor of CIO and former editor of Techworld.

Why is it every time I blog about something, a big announcement is made right after and I’m then forced to write a follow-up? Last week on September 16 I wrote about KOffice, “the little office suite that could…”.

Well, the little office suite that could, “just did” – one day later.

On September 17 Nokia – via the KDE project – announced its intention to include KOffice as a base for the office file viewer in future versions of Maemo, the Linux-based mobile operating system backed by Nokia and used in the company’s “Internet tablet” range.

As a result, the KOffice developers were sent crowing.

Jan Hambrecht said the decision shows that KOffice has “one of the best technical foundations” and “is lightweight, flexible and very fast, which makes it perfect in embedded environments like a smart phone”.

Sure Nokia could have used, but KOffice is more aligned with Nokia’s QT-based software strategy.

Also news is Nokia has created a customized GUI based on the Maemo 5 touch screen interface on top of the KOffice core and is working on making the support for Microsoft Office documents more mature.

In the past I’ve been critical of Nokia’s open source (and overall software) strategies, but lately it’s been hitting the mark, and this decision is no exception.

It just makes sense for Nokia to support an open source office suite for mobile file viewing, which should be part of the standard offering.

Sure there are premium products for mobile office work, but file viewing should just be a commodity component.

Now, let’s not get too excited about the immediate impact on the number of users of KOffice.

Unlike Webkit (another project spun out of KDE) which has found its way in many millions of devices – from S60-based ones to iPhones – KOffice is only slated for Maemo at this time.

So while the numbers from a KOffice perspective will be impressive (say a few hundred thousand users once the N900 begins shipping en masse, and being updated), this move won’t mean “millions of people use KOffice” on their handheld device anytime soon.

Such claims tend to be made when people talk numbers in the mobile industry.

What is exciting is where KOffice will be taken by Maemo itself.

If Maemo becomes the operating system of choice for Nokia’s high-end smartphones, like the iPhone and Android are for Nokia’s competitors, then KOffice could be taken for a really good ride like WebKit before it.

Maemo running on all Nokia Nseries devices? That’s not completely unreasonable, but a lot will depend on the acceptance and success of the N900.

If the N900 takes Nokia mobility to the level of the iPhone and Android, then Nokia would be mad not to offer it on more devices.

In any event, the changes and enhancements Nokia is making to KOffice will be to the benefit of all KOffice users on the desktop.

Finally KOffice has a big name behind it – well done!

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