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New KDE project aims at tablets, mixed UIs

Break tradition to combine data with usage patterns and context information
KDE's Plasma Active: The Contour activity browser

KDE's Plasma Active: The Contour activity browser

New open source projects have been launched by KDE developers aimed at bringing a consistent user interface across a varied of touch screen interfaces like tablets and entertainment devices and take data integration to a new level.

The new Plasma Active and Contour projects were developed for a new user experience for tablets, smartphones and set top boxes.

According to its developers, the overall goal is to create a “data-centric user interface which is not concerned with applications but rather offers intelligently combined data through a context-sensitive recommendation manager”.

Plasma Active runs on a Linux desktop stack, including the kernel, Qt and KDE's Plasma framework.

The concept is not unlike MeeGo which is a collaboration between Nokia and Intel. However, since Nokia announced it will use Windows Phone as its primary smartphone platform, its future role within the MeeGo project is uncertain. Intel will continue to develop MeeGo.

MeeGo will be an initial target platform for the Contour interface.

KDE developer Marco Martin wrote on his blog that Plasma Active isn’t a single project, but more an umbrella of many components, including Contour.

The aim of Contour is to integrate what a user it doing on the device, what “resources” like files and contacts are open, how they are relevant to running tasks and what applications might be relevant to a running task.

So far Plasma Active is described as under development, but a working prototype of Contour has already been demonstrated (see video).

“Mobile systems are still a white canvas where we still can experiment something new, and provided we have most of the technology for it, we'll be able to have this resource centric, activity based system in a pretty good shape in a really short time,” Martin wrote.

According to Martin, Contour is designed to be highly modular, so when a part of it is ready for production, the main Plasma tablet user interface will immediately adopt it.

Owner of German software development company basysKom, Eva Brucherseifer, said mobile devices now handle a huge amount of data but rely on the user to choose an application to reach some goal.

“They have to search for data and sort the information themselves. This creates a very static and application-centric user-experience. Contour goes one step beyond,” Brucherseifer wrote on her blog.

“Contour sets out to break with this tradition and to combine the available data with personal usage patterns and context information. The project aims to provide different entry points for different situations and contexts, called activities. In a work environment for example users have different preferences than they have on the train or at the opera.”

Contour began as a research project within basysKom.

A Plasma Active proof-of-concept ISO image is also available for download from:

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More about: Intel, ISO, KDE, KDE, Linux, MeeGo, Nokia
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