The Future of GNOME in GNU/Linux

Does GNOME Have a Foreseeable Prominent Future with the Advent of KDE 4, OS X Leopard, and Windows 7?With the advent of nicer GUI's for the end user, one has to wonder how GNOME is going to stack up. GNOME hasn't ever been one to say it's all about a flashy desktop, with a lot of bells and whistles,
but it has been accepted as a quaint desktop environment. The reason lies in the simplicity present of a GNOME install -- there isn't much to see at first glance.

GNOME totes around simplicity as a means to end. That's great, but it can also lead to a lack of innovation. With simplicity, it's hard to create something slick and new. When something of the like comes across (with new features and a new look), an uncanny valley occurs. We revolt at the new; the innovation leads us to think poorly of the actual innovation.

When Windows Vista was released, many relished it's new features and were happy to play around with them. The new Aero Glass theme was a huge item for debate, and many seemed to like the user interface. To oppose, if you were to scour the internet, you will find others who are disgusted by the new interface. There are a bunch of blogs about it as well, with many people saying Vista's interface mars the Windows appeal. To give an analogy to these claims: Windows Vista is Windows XP but dressed up for a beauty pageant, fake and unappealing in all it's glory. Although that analogy is for the look and feel of Windows Vista, there are features that Vista has that Windows XP does not, many of them actually. Regardless of how much better Windows Vista is as an operating system, many people refuse to look at that aspect due to how the operating systems looks and feels.

Windows 7 follows the view of GNOME with updates but without changing the entire interface (at least for now). Yes, Windows 7 has revamped the task bar but it's not a complete change like XP to Vista. Windows 7 is very much Windows Vista with user interface refinements and added features. Users used to Windows Vista will have little problem with Windows 7 in terms of appeal. Even the users whom disliked Windows Vista should be warmer to Windows 7 as the shock of Windows Vista will have warn off, and the look of Windows 7 will be somewhat expected, allowing a transition to the new software.KDE 4.2 was released two days ago on January 27th, 2009. KDE 4 aims to provide a very nice, appealing interface to get work done efficiently in a pleasing way. Again, the uncanny valley effect has s
hown its ugly head. Many people were put off with KDE 4, being die-hard KDE 3 fans. KDE 3 and GNOME have always been similar in the way of approaching how the desktop should look. The differences lie in how the desktop was actually implemented. With KDE 4, new technology came into play, like Phonon, Oxygen, Plasma, Motion Physics, etc. While remarkably changes to how a desktop environment should behave and look like, it gives a bit of a learning curve to users used to KDE 3. The changes are dramatic, and it has put some users off of the new look.

Now OS X has been through a lot of changes, and most of them are in the style of GNOME. Refining the UI (user interface) and providing features for users. With Leopard, Apple shot the iconic Menu Bar in the foot and changed it's look by making it semi-transparent with sharp corners. Leopard also aims to unify the interface by getting rid of the brushed metal look and providing a more iTunes-ish interface. Although not that big of change, a quick look online will show users are upset by this fact, also by the fact that the scrollbars are still in the Aqua era (watery blue) for the entire operating system, except for iTunes. A big change was the Dock that users were so familiar with from OS X Cheetah all the way to OS X Tiger. In Leopard, the Dock becomes three-dimensional (in the sense of being on a two-dimensional screen) and gets a reflective coating. Many users found this Dock to be a step back from the prior Dock. It was soon found out that you could change the dock to a two-dimensional Dock (regardless of Dock placement) with a single bash command, although this Dock is still different from Dock of prior OS X iterations.

This is why GNOME is adamant about simplicity. They want to create something that people can get familiar with. With each iteration of the GNOME desktop, the user interface doesn't get a make-over. It's added to, or refined, building upon what is known to create something better. The same philosophy is true for humans. We learn from our and/or other's mistakes. We build upon our wisdom and hopefully enhance ourselves. Seems only right to follow this line of thinking if we follow this thinking day-to-day.

GNOME has said that the release of GNOME 2.30 is equal to GNOME 3.0. Meaning, when GNOME 2.30 comes around, it will be called GNOME 3.0 with a different UI. So where does GNOME stand? Will GNOME follow it's roots and stay close to the previous user-interface? Will it maintain it's simplicity roots? Or will GNOME follow the role of the other software companies and completely revamp the user interface?There isn't anything wrong with changing the entire interface. It's what leads to innovation. Stagnating with the regular GNOME release type has it's drawbacks as innovation is minimal in comparison
to KDE 4 and Vista. But I think GNOME should follow it's roots and build upon what they know. Take a step further and follow human ways by learning from other's mistakes like the mistakes of KDE 4, Vista, Windows 7, Leopard. Take that knowledge and develop something grand.

Not to say KDE 4, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X Leopard are mistakes, because they are not. It's a different approach. I hope GNOME takes an approach that is a hybrid of what we've seen so far. I feel that is innovation in itself. Although people get used to the jarring new effects of a new interface, it will bode well if people don't have to get used to new interface but adapt quickly and naturally as it's a natural progression into something better than before, yet very close to home.


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