A complaint you hear quite often is that the Linux desktop environments, which mostly refers to KDE and GNOME, are trying too hard to be like Windows and Mac OS X. Now, even James Bottomley, Distinguished Engineer at Novell, Director of the Linux Foundation, and Chair of its Technical Advisory Board (put that on your business card) states in an interview that he believes the Linux desktop is too much like Windows and Mac.
Bottomly will moderate the upcoming Linux Kernel Roundtable at LinuxCon, a discussion with, among others, Jonathan Corbet and Linus Torvalds. In an interview, Bottomly said that getting open source innovation to the end user is one of the challenges for Linux.
For Linux as a whole, I think the challenge is to bring open source innovation to the end user computing experience, particularly on the desktop. We have some brilliant desktop technologies, but a lot of them are based on existing Windows or Mac stuff. I think the next releases of GNOME and KDE are pushing us much farther along towards the leading edge here, and I’m interested to see what actually emerges as viable technology for the next generation of user interfaces.
It’s a complaint you often hear, namely that GNOME and KDE try to cater too much to the Windows, and to a lesser extent, the Mac crowd, while they instead should be trying to innovate and differentiate themselves.
I’m honestly not so sure of this. If you look at especially KDE4, then you see a desktop environment bearing very little resemblance to either Windows or Mac OS X (and remember, we’re not talking about looks, but functionality and behaviour). Instead, KDE4 is truly standing on its own two feet, and while it was off to a rocky start, and still poses problems for some users (especially in trying to get performance at an acceptable level), it is distinctly different from other desktop environments out there.
GNOME is a bit of a different story, but GNOME is more about providing a stable, slowly improving desktop than KDE is. The KDE project is trying all sorts of new things, while GNOME is more about gradual progress. However, even the GNOME project is working on a lot of new things for GNOME 3.0, which will really set it apart from other environments currently available.
In the end, though, the inescapable truth of the matter is that desktop environments are all relatively alike, and if you can find your way around one of them, it doesn’t take too much adapting to find your way around another. While trying to be different is a noble cause, you do have to wonder if being too different won’t just scare people away.