The K Desktop Environment (KDE) Project has announced the release of the third version of its KDE3 desktop platform, called KDE 3.2, for Linux and Unix operating systems.

New applications for KDE 3.2 include Kopete, an IM (instant messenger) product that supports competing IM products; KWallet, for the storage of passwords and Web form data; and Kontact, which pulls together KDE's e-mail, calendar, address book and other personal information products, the Project said.

KDE3 is an integrated desktop product including Web browsing, e-mail and instant messaging software. Application start-up times and Web page rendering have been sped up and refinements to the interface ease product use, the KDE Project said. The upgrade complements a recent update to the KOffice office suite, it added.

KDE's desktop applications are used in SuSE Linux's desktop operating system. Chris Schlaeger, SuSE's vice president of research and development, said that the KDE software upgrade will be integrated into the next version of SuSE's desktop operating system, due in the next few months.

In fact, KDE 3.2 will be made available immediately through SuSE's web site, but will not be officially supported until it has been fully integrated into the new version, he said. "People can use it (with SuSE), but if they have problems installing it or running it they're pretty much on their own," he said.

However, Gartner analyst Brian Gammage said new versions of open source software are somewhat "below the radar" for most business users.

Moves to open source rather than Microsoft products are often driven by sentiment rather than business reasons, he said. "Linux is a very viable alternative for certain groups of people, but not everyone wants to be running what is effectively a Unix workstation. The reality is that organisations and the majority of home users want easy-to-manage personal computing, and moving to a new platform takes a major effort," he said.

KDE 3.2 is currently available in 42 languages with 32 other translations underway, the Project said. Work is underway on integrating accessibility technologies for people with disabilities, including blindness, the KDE Project said.