Interview with TheKompany’s President, Shawn Gordon

TheKompany is one of the very few companies creating truly multi-platform products, even if they are mostly a Linux/KDE company. Among their products you will find Aethera, Kapital, BlackAdder and a whole lot of apps for embedded Linux, mostly for the Sharp Zaurus PDA. Today we are happy to host an interview with the company’s president, Shawn Gordon. Dive in and read our interesting chat with Shawn about their products, Linux’s future, Qt and KDE, porting to OSX, their embbeded apps etc.1. Please tell us more about Aethera. When do you expect version 1.0 to be released, and how does it compare to Ximian’s Evolution?

Shawn GordonShawn Gordon: Well, Aethera has been a long path, unlike many companies we have no outside funding, so at times things can go slower than we want them to. A couple of months ago we made a strategic decision to port the mail portion of Aethera onto Embedded Linux to round out our suite of applications that are PIM related on that platform. We had been getting numerous requests, so we decided to bite the bullet and put off the 1.0 release of Aethera for a couple months, this did have the advantage of working going in to tighten the engine code that Aethera uses, so we expect it probably by early October at the latest.

In terms of comparing it to Evolution, they both are at the heart email/PIM applications. We differ initially in the fact that ours will run on Linux and Windows and we might possibly do a Mac OS X port for the 1.0 release. The other way we differ is that we didn’t set out to make an
Outlook clone, as a matter of fact the UI designer has never even seen Outlook. Some things in a UI just make sense, and certain functions are common to this type of application. Aethera, as it evolves, has a structure that is designed to allow you to communicate and manage your personal data in a much more intuitive fashion than anything I’ve seen to date. We developed some really amazing technology to allow for cross platform dynamic loaders and embedding of parts, these are KORE and TINO, and we use them extensively in our applications. Kore is available on our website, but we haven’t put Tino up yet.

2. Will you move your application’s codebase over to QT 3.x? Which one of your products gets more attention from your coders these days?

Shawn Gordon: We were selling applications based on Qt 3.x beta2 over a year ago. Trolltech was shocked to find out we had jumped onto Qt3 so hard and so fast. We are way ahead of the curve in that regard.

As far as what get’s attention, it’s a rotating kind of thing. We have guys who work on certain products full time, then we have other guys that jump from product to product (mostly writing new ones), and we recently hired some more people to go through the backlog of feature requests and
bug reports and start making a concerted effort to get those finished.

What has a real hard push going right now is to wrap up Kapital 1.0 for the first week of September. Kapital is our Quicken type application and it is strictly for KDE and has recently been updated to KDE 3. While we’ve converted to Qt for most of our apps for various reasons, it is certainly a joy to be able to use pure KDE and especially KDE 3 for Kapital, it’s just
super super slick, the downside is the lack of portability across platforms (yes, you can do it, but it’s not near as straight forward as a pure Qt app) but for Kapital it only needs to be a KDE app, so we get to enjoy that wonderful environment.

The beta for Kapital went on much longer than we wanted, and this was mostly due to distractions, so a few months ago I put some really top notch programmers on it full time to wrap it up and they’ve been burning through it. The 1.0 release is going to be very nice and we are already queuing up what will be in 1.1 by the end of the year. The price of the product goes up when the beta is over, so there is a limited window to still take advantage of the lower price.

3. What kind of full featured applications do you feel that the Linux desktop still lacks?

Shawn Gordon: Well, speaking for myself, a real good Quickbooks type app. I know there are some things out there, but nothing like the ease of use of Quickbooks. We get asked about writing one of these all the time because of our Kapital product, but I’m not sure if we want to take that on at this stage.

Then there is project management software. I know there are a number of initiatives out there, but none of them really grab me. For me that is about it other than some really kick ass sequencing software. I’ve not had a chance to really try Brahms or Rosegarden, so those might actually fit the bill for me, I’ll have to try when I get some free time :). There are some cool things you can do in the corporate/enterprise desktop space, some of which we are working on and I’m not going to talk about yet.

4. Are you planning on porting more of your applications to MacOSX and Windows?

Shawn Gordon: We just finished porting QuantaGold to OS X and will be releasing it next week I hope. DataArchitect 2.1 will be on OS X next month. We are working on Rekall and Kivio mp to see how they do on OS X as well. The lions share of requests have been for QuantaGold on OS X so far.

5. Which market was more favorable for TheKompany’s sales so far? Linux, Embedded or Windows?

Shawn Gordon: This has been a fantastic year for us so far, I’ve really been pleased. We’ve been getting into more and more stores lately, notably in Fry’s and Microcenter, and the sales are real solid out of those locations, we get re-orders constantly, and that is for the desktop apps. We don’t know if people are using our stuff for Linux or Windows because one box and one price gets you both. We could have put some ‘phone home’ software in there to count it, but we are against that kind of thing.

The embedded spaces has been a real nice surprise, we have been selling that software like hotcakes, and there are more and more devices based on embedded linux and Qtopia coming out, so I really see this being a huge revenue generator for us in the long term, it is very exciting. If you haven’t tried out a Sharp Zaurus 5500, they are really cool devices.

6. Do you see that Embedded, Server or Desktop market will be more successful for Linux in the future?

Shawn Gordon: I think Server without a doubt, that one is pretty much a no-brainer. For the desktop and embedded, that is going to take big names making sales calls. I’m trying to ride those coattails because I don’t have the resources to go to HP and make them listen to me that they should use KDE for example. Speaking of which, we are looking for a solid sales/marketing person that can start to really help grow our business into major markets, this is something that we haven’t been pursuing and need to start. We’ve been focused on the retail channel, and we’ve got customers at just about every Fortune 500 company you care to name, but it’s just some guy or girl at the organization, not like a corporate sale.

7. In your opinion, what can bring Linux closer to the “desktop”?

Shawn Gordon: Talk about it, promote it, take it to work, install it for your mom, just get people to use it. Advocacy is all we have, there is no big corporation to really make it happen, so write to magazines, do talkbacks, write articles, just get the word out as much as you can.

8. Is TheKompany preparing new products? If yes, what is the nature of these products?

Shawn Gordon: On the desktop we are working on updates and upgrades of all our products, there is also some more blending and re-use of technology that is going to take place, a good example is our QuantaGold and Kobol products which use the exact same IDE code. We want to do more of that in the future.

For embedded systems we have about another dozen products we are working on at the moment. I dislike naming things because I don’t want to pre-announce anything, sometimes I get stuck because someone says “You guys should do ‘x'” and I say “well we are and it’s almost done”, but overall we
try very hard to avoid it.


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