In openSUSE’s KDE team, we’ve recently planned the migration to Akonadi, the groupware caching solution that will be the base of upcoming KDE PIM versions, notably KDE’s address book, email client and calendar app. With the release of KDE SC 4.4, we’ve seen the first component being ported to Akonadi, KAddressbook, spearheaded by its fearless maintainer Tobias König. In the KDE SC 4.5 cycle, we’re seeing more components in their first Akonadi-incarnation. As this means a big step for these applications, some attention needs to be paid to users who will, over the coming months, migrate to the Akonadi-based PIM components. The PIM team has decided to go with a stepped approach, and not introduce all applications in their Akonadi version at once. This is a sensible decision, as it allows you to learn from problems in the migration path, and fix these in the next wave of ports. PIM in SC 4.4 brought the address book migration, which wasn’t completely smooth from a user’s point of view. While in most cases, the fix was as easy as "point Akonadi to your contacts (or .vcf) file", we can (and will) do better with the migration of KMail. KMail2 (which is akonadi-based) will not arrive with 4.5.0, though, but is planned become part of the next monthly SC update, 4.5.1. This decision has been made by KDE’s PIM team in order to get a little more time to stabilise and test the release. This is also our first line of defense :-)
As users’ needs vary, we decided to make the Akonadi port of KMail opt-in for the 11.3 cycle. openSUSE 11.3 is based on KDE SC 4.4, and as such will install the "mostly traditional" PIM suite. Users will not automatically be upgraded to KDE SC 4.5 (which is due in August), but in all likelihood it will be easily installable. As there are many people who follow KDE releases closely, many will install SC 4.5.0 and followups from the Factory repositories, so when 4.5.1 is released, these users’ email would get migrated to Akonadi automatically. That might come as a surprise, as it’s unconventional to make such a big technological leap in what looks like a bugfix update. So in openSUSE, we will keep shipping 4.5.0′s KDE PIM even in Factory, but also make available packages that replace KMail1 with KMail2. Users will be able to opt-in to the Akonadi migration, so they can do this upgrade when it fits for them. From a discussion with the PIMsters, it also looks a lot like you can try the Akonadi-based KMail, and if it’s not ready for you yet, you can switch back to KMail1 without losing your config. That’s a great achievement by the PIM team, and shows that they’re developing with end-users in mind.
For the user, this means that for the innocent nothing will change automatically in the upcoming cycle (other than bugs getting fixed). The effect is that there will be a roughly 6 months long window in which users have the choice whether they just want their KMail to not change, or to jump on the Akonadi bandwagon into the future.
This upgrade also gives us (upstream KDE and downstream openSUSE) the opportunity to make the migration and workings even smoother, and deliver some icing on the Akonadi-cake with the openSUSE 12.0, which show why Akonadi is a darn useful thing to have. I know many people (and I am one of them) who are looking forward to make full use of Akonadi, not only in the applications you’d expect it to be, but also integrate all the interesting information from Akonadi also in other apps. I’m sure some very interesting features will crop up after Akonadi is fully upon us.