Plasma Mobile Roadmap

In the past weeks, we have noticed an increased interest in Plasma Mobile from different sides. Slowly, but surely, hardware vendors have discovered that Plasma Mobile is an entirely different software platform to build products on top of. For people or companies who want to work or invest into Plasma Mobile, it’s always useful to know where upstream is heading, so let me give an overview of what our plans are, what areas of work we’re planning to tackle in the coming months and years, where our focus will be and how it will shift. Let’s talk about Plasma Mobile’s roadmap.

Our development strategy is to build a basic system and platform around our core values first and then extend this. Having a stable base of essentials allows us to focus on an achievable subset first and then extend functionality for more and more possible target groups. It avoids pie-in-the-sky system engineering something that will never be useful and designed for a unicorn market that never existed. Get the basics right first, then take it to the next levels. These levels are:

  1. Prototype (already finished)
  2. Feature Phone
  3. Basic Smartphone
  4. Featured Smartphone

Plasma Mobile Roadmap
Plasma Mobile Roadmap

Let’s look at these steps in detail.

Prototype and Product Vision

The first public release of Plasma Mobile was this prototype. It showed a very basic and incomplete-for-daily-use system on actual, modern smartphone hardware. You could make phone calls, start and manage apps, and manipulate some basic system functionality. It showed a smartphone system based on Plasma could be done, and more importantly, it taught us a lot about where we want to take things on a technical level.
Along with the prototype, we developed a product vision for Plasma Mobile, a direction where we want to take it (emphasis added by yours truly):

“Plasma Mobile aims to become a complete software system for mobile devices. It is designed to give privacy-aware users back the full-control over their information and communication. Plasma Mobile takes a pragmatic approach and is inclusive to 3rd party software, allowing the user to choose which applications and services to use. It provides a seamless experience across multiple devices. Plasma Mobile implements open standards and it is developed in a transparent process that is open for the community to participate in.”

Feature Phone

The feature phone milestone is what we’re working on right now. This involves taking the prototype and fixing all the basic things to turn it into something usable. Usable doesn’t mean “usable for everyone”, but it should at least be workable for a subset of people that only rely on basic features — “simple” things.
Core features should work flawlessly once this milestone is achieved. With core features, we’re thinking along the lines of making phone calls, using the address book, manage hardware functions such as network connectivity, volume, screen, time, language, etc.. Aside from these very core things for a phone, we want to provide decent integration with a webbrowser (or provide our own), app store integration likely using, so you can get apps on and off the device, taking photos, recording videos and watching these media. Finally, we want to settle for an SDK which allows third party developers to build apps to run on Plasma Mobile devices.
Getting this to work is no small feat, but it allows us to receive real-world feedback and provide a stable base for third-party products. It makes Plasma Mobile a viable target for future product development.

Basic Smartphone

The basic smartphone extends the feature set of Plasma Mobile to a wider group of target users. The plan is to add personal information management features, such as reading and sending emails, calendaring and reminders. We also want to add file management capabilities in this milestone, because we think that the user should be able to deal with the data in her phone in the most transparant way, and file management is something that allows users to look into the fabric of their data, and that of the phone itself. Another big topic for the Basic Smartphone milestone is extending the app ecosystem through third-party and original applications to allow the user to do more things with the device.

Featured Smartphone

For the featured smartphone, we want to add more system-level integration features such as deeply integrated private cloud storage and have grown our own ecosystem with more apps and of course games. An often requested feature is support for Android apps. Supporting Android apps could give Plasma Mobile a huge boost in terms of possible target groups, since it allows users to switch away from Android more easily, even when they are requiring a few apps and can’t really live without these. Being able to run Android apps on a Plasma Mobile device can ease the transition considerably and it allows us to capture potential target user groups that rely on proprietary services which Plasma Mobile, at first, cannot serve simply because as a smaller player, it’s not an attractive enough platform to have the likes of WhatsApp develop native clients for.

When it’s ready!?

On purpose, we did not add a specific timeline to this roadmap for two reasons: First, Plasma Mobile is a participative project, if you want to see something done, get involved. We’re not running the show all by ourselves. We want to create an open eco system where people who do the work decide on its direction. This means if you get involved, you can help us shape the future of mobile computing instead of being just a code monkey that does what someone else has decided. Secondly, we don’t want to deliver half-assed software just because we set a timeline. We want to create quality software to build products upon. If you or your company want to ship on a specific date, work with us and we’ll plan together. We won’t make promises when something is ready beforehand, but as an upstream project, we want to ship “when it’s ready”. This “when” depends on all our input and hard work. So don’t sit in your armchairs and wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting, but let’s get cracking!

11 thoughts on “Plasma Mobile Roadmap

  1. This all sounds nice and I would most likely be interested in such a phone. (Guaranteed if it has a physical keyboard) But I wonder, in these plans, is there any way for the user to adjust how apps behave responsive-wise? That is, if I get a device with a precision stylus, could I set it to display an entire desktop, without typical responsive design such as hidden menus, lots of scrolling and swiping, etc?

    My dream would be something like the old, but extremely practical and powerful, OPIE Desktop on a modern phone. :)

  2. The ideal future scenario in my opinion will be:
    * different Linux distro (rolling vs more stable) that ship Halium
    * Plasma Mobile and KDE Apps shipped through Flatpak (as it happens with Android and APK). It’s very important to let people install applications without root permissions as Flatpak does. Changing DE is like changing an Android app launcher, so Plasma, GNOME etc should be shipped as Flatpak too.
    * KDE provides an F-droid-compatible repo to let Android users install KDE’s new generation of apps. More users on Android means more testing to improve the same apps for Plasma Mobile.
    * The distros ship Anbox for Android apps support
    * Android apps are integrated with Plasma and its apps, including “share with” services and permissions management
    * Discover manage system updates by distro, Flatpak apps updates and Android apps updates through F-droid-compatible repos. The distro can choose to add by defautl FlatHub repo and F-droid repo. Discover manages installation of APKs working as front-end to Anbox.
    * Plasma and KDE apps are integrated with FOSS cloud services like Nextcloud

  3. I’m hopeful that the security lessons that others have been battling have been learned. There’s way too much personal stuff (even for feature phone features) to even have one security issue.

  4. The biggest problem with this is that everyone wants a different “first device”. With keyboard! With stylus! HUGE! Small! Cheap! High end!
    And this market does not have a track record for giving new platforms a chance. MeeGo anyone (Nokia N9)? Tizen (Samsung Z3)? Windows (cough-cough). This is such a hard market to penetrate… and then it’s quickly all about the apps. Millions of them. But I am getting ahead of myself.
    Plasma is Mobile is an interesting idea – and a truly open phone platform is of course incredibly tempting. The software platform is slowly coming together, but I admit that as one of the people using Plasma Mobile (more specifically, Kirigami) to build a mobile app for Android and iOS… there’s a long way to go. Really cool ideas. An interesting programing model. An amazing IDE. A lot of the pieces are /almost/ there. But the devil is still in the details. And I don’t think Kirigami as it stands today (with the documentation that is available today) is ready for prime time.

    Before I get accused of being a nay sayer… I have spent hundreds of hours on this QML app and I will continue to do so. And while I sometimes get frustrated and complain loudly, I will also say that I think that the app that we have is already quite impressive. It’s just that it’s too hard to get there right now. And it’s too easy to break the app (or to have the next Kirigami update break it for you).

    So: YAY, Plasma Mobile. Please keep making the platform better and improve the documentation and tutorials and FAQs and…

  5. Oh I’m very glad to feel this project’s heartbeat again!
    However when you say “let’s get cracking!”… how am I supposed to do that?
    I happen to have a Nexus 5X but can’t afford to reflash it with Plasma. Are there any plans to create virtual devices and support dual boot/multirom on more than one device? Or is it possible to test applications on desktop at first?

  6. Plasma Mobile looks really great.

    I hope Plasma Mobile will provide a way change between linux user accounts.
    An automatic reset guest account is practical.

  7. I have some questions:

    1. Is it possible to reuse some of the code from other (failed) open source mobile experiments? (MeeGo, Tizen, FirefoxOS, Ubuntu Phone)
    2. How can I test it on the Desktop?
    3. How can I test it on a phone (Moto Z)?
    4. If it is ready, why should my mom use it instead of her iPhone?
    5. What is the product vision?
    6. What is the target user group?

    1. Thanks for the questions.

      1. We partly do, especially the things that have gone into Qt. Some of our devs (among which, me) have worked on Meego / Nokia products in the past, so there’s also some DNA in Plasma Mobile. It’s a big reason to merge improvements upstream, as the knowledge and technology isn’t lost, even if the project dies.
      2. You can compile the Plasma Mobile specific code on your desktop system like any other Plasma module.
      3. You would need a Moto Z image for it, check if there’s Halium support for it, to see if it’s available.
      4. This question can’t be answered right now. Plasma Mobile is a base for a finished product, not a final product itself. This question, just like your 6. depends on the finished product.
      5. It’s literally in the article, surprisingly under “Product Vision” :-)
      6. See 4.

  8. I’ve been excited about Plasma Mobile and Ubuntu touch for a while now. When Ubuntu got the axe I was super concerned that Plasma was done as well because I thought Plasma was running that project as a core then putting the plasma interface on it instead of whatever it was that Ubuntu had on it.

    Again, I’m super happy so see this live on but my main question is to the recurring push to get the community active. I want this to come to fruition but I’m not a developer and have no spare money to donate so I’m not sure what I can put into this project. There is the obvious word of mouth to help with exposure and if I can get my hands on an old nexus I’d LOVE to put this up there and be an alpha/beta tester but as an insider on the project is there anything else you can suggest as a form of contribution for those of us who can’t write in C?

    1. C++. :-)

      (It’s not exclusively C++, there’s also a ton of QtQuick code, javascript, etc., however.)

      Instead of focusing on what you cannot do, what is it what you *want* to do, what kind of things do you like and enjoy doing? The thing is, if you want to contribute to Plasma Mobile (or in fact any open source project), enjoying it is the single most important thing to keep your motivation up. Anything else, you can learn. So, once you tell us what you are good at, what you like doing, we can surely find something that is useful. That can range from promotion, design, testing, technical work (even if you don’t speak C++, perhaps you can do things like setting up a VM with Plasma mobile so it’s easy to test, just as an example), helping us to write documentation, work on design tasks, etc.. There’s a ton of things you can do, many of the non-programming tasks will free up developer time so it’s does also make us more effective in terms of actual coding work.

      Join us in the Plasma IRC channel or on the Plasma mailing list to talk specifics.

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