Desktop Linux: Diversity is the New Reality: Page 2

Diversity on the Linux desktop? It's extensive and it's here to stay -- and it's just what the desktop needs.


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Another trend these statistics seem to indicate is that the split in GNOME appears to be continuing. A couple of years ago, Unity added a second interface to GNOME. Today, Linux Mint's recreations of GNOME 2 are popular, and GNOME 3 is shipped with modifications from official GNOME extensions, or else from the distributions themselves.

Moreover, if the Czech survey can be scaled, which GNOME variant users prefer apparently depends largely on what default a distribution uses. However, since Fedora's and Ubuntu's default desktops have each been available to the other distribution for only a few months, that may not be a valid conclusion.

Responding to the New Reality

So far as I can tell, few of the current desktop alternatives have officially responded to the new reality. KDE and Xfce continue much as they have always done, concentrating on development with relatively little attention paid to marketing. KDE's marketing concentrates largely on producing KDE.News (also called The Dot), while Xfce's advocacy list has not had a posting for a year, and its foundation list for six months.

Although KDE is attempting to release its own tablet, that project has so far not succeeded. The project can release the KDE Manifesto, a re-statement of free software principles, as though it were ten years ago, and diversity on the desktop was not a current challenge. Having suffered less than GNOME because of user revolts, KDE apparently has less incentive to change its group habits.

Similarly, while Linux Mint's developers talk on the distribution's blog sometimes about giving users what they want, and maintain mail forums with moderate traffic, online they give no other indication of being overly concerned about the popularity of their work.

Unity developers may be concerned about market share. But given that Canonical would market Unity as part of Ubuntu anyway, their attitude is hard to deduce.

By contrast, the project that has reacted most strongly to the diversification of the Linux desktop is GNOME. But, considering that mainstream GNOME has lost more user share than any other alternative, that is hardly surprising.

Besides, GNOME has focused on marketing for some years now. Its marketing list includes regular postings by such GNOME leaders as Allen Day, Dave Neary, Stormy Peters, and Karen Sandler, and its news releases show some awareness of business standards.

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For example, the announcement of GNOME 3.6 is careful to include ready-to-use quotes from several prominent free software community members, while the announcement of KDE 4.9 is basically a friendlier version of the release notes.

However, even by GNOME's previous standards, public relations and strategy has become a larger concern in the last six months.

Officially, the project admits to no problems, emphasizing in its plans the continued development of GNOME 3 along the current lines. Unofficially, though, many members seem resolved to restore the project's popularity and influence.

Some of this concern seems naive. After I suggested that the "conventional wisdom is that GNOME 3 has failed," a thread on the GNOME marketing list considered ways "to push back on negative articles like this.

The responses considered complaints to the site that published the article, positive press releases of what was happening in GNOME, a blog campaign, and suggestions of media training to counter future articles that the group considered negative. In the end, more experienced heads prevailed, which was just as well.

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Tags: Linux, Gnome, KDE, desktop linux

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