This limitation of choices is implied very clearly in the notes on GNOME 3's development. GNOME 3's design principles do not even mention enabling users to work as they prefer. Instead, GNOME 3 is described as better because it tackles problems in the GNOME 2 series, and was built with "The utilization of the shell designers' previous experiences and research activities, and the use of stock usability principles and knowledge." A usability study was only conducted in December 2010, months after the design was established, and the chances of a major change in direction were possible.
Some might find this focus restrictive. Others might find the focus on usability principles something that the free desktop has long needed. Either way, the contrast with KDE's less formal, more varied approach to design is obvious.
GNOME 3 may provide more customization options in later releases. However, the FAQ's discussion of hardware acceleration, which ends with the statement that "the GNOME project and its partners are working hard to ensure that the complete GNOME 3 experience is available to as many people as possible, and aim to ensure that users who are initially unable to have this experience will be able to in the future" makes it sound disturbingly like KDE 4.0.
In other words, in some aspects GNOME 3 provides only the basic functionality, and not the full support that users are expecting.
After the user revolt that KDE 4.0 provoked, I would have thought that the GNOME project would have known better. But no doubt, having delayed the release twice, GNOME was under heavy pressure to produce an official release.
Yet even ignoring any questions of completeness, many are going to find GNOME 3 disappointing. In fact, on the mailing lists for distributions like Fedora that have had betas and release candidates available for some time, the complaints are already being made. GNOME 3 requires more memory than KDE 4.6, while offering less flexibility and requiring users to trust that its designers know best. In some ways, they may do, but expecting users to defer to developers seems optimistic, to say the least.
After KDE's recent history, the conclusion seems ironic, but, for these releases, I suspect that the majority of users are more likely to be satisfied with KDE 4.6 than GNOME 3.
Not everybody will -- I have heard some people rave about GNOME 3. But they are outnumbered at least two to one by people who dislike it. Moreover, if you can move beyond all the rumors and complaints about KDE in the last few years, despite the innovations, KDE 4.6 is closer to the traditional desktop than I can ever imagine GNOME 3 becoming.
Some, of course, are going to look to other alternatives. But that is another discussion. If the choice is just between the two major free desktops, then KDE now has a distinct advantage over GNOME.
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