On the desktop itself, Debian even manages to show some interest in usability. In particular, Debian 6 borrows from Ubuntu, even though its version of GNOME is closer to what the GNOME project ships than Ubuntu's modified version of GNOME. The new Debian release features the Ubuntu Software Center, renaming it simply "Software Center" for desktop package management -- although, true to form, the release notes continue to recommend the test-based aptitude or the command line tool apt-get as the best choice.
Even though the software versions are far from the latest, Debian 6 does deliver an innovative, fast-booting system, with some effort to think about usability. If the desktop experience is not as innovative as Ubuntu's, it still shows some significant improvements over the previous release -- although the less said about the cartoon-like sci-fi branding of the default wallpaper, the better.
If what you want in a distribution is the packaging of the newest software on the same day that it is announced, then Debian 6.0 will not be for you. Some packages are available that quickly -- notably Amarok's -- but, mostly, Debian has never tried to be bleeding edge, and Debian 6.0 is no departure from this tradition.
Instead, Debian 6.0 emphasizes the values that the project has always held: stability based on thorough testing, and an unobtrusive -- and non-obnoxious -- preference for software freedom and user control. Innovations such as the faster boot-time do occur (and are welcome), but they are secondary to the project's core values.
Considering how many distributions and users depend on Debian these days, these priorities are reassuring. But there is equal reassurance in the fact that, as free software becomes increasingly commercialized, there is still at least one major distribution that goes its own way, and emphasizes quality and software freedom over the expediency of the market place and the release schedule.
Debian 6.0 does show signs of change. In particular, it seems designed to bring those values to less technical users than previous Debian releases. In general, though, it shows every sign of perpetuating Debian's core values -- and those of us who appreciate those values wouldn't want it any other way.