GNOME’s Ambitious OS Adventure

With all the ongoing debate over desktop environments here in the Linux blogosphere, there’s never any shortage of discussion of the GNOME project, even on an ordinary day.

Last Tuesday, however, was no ordinary day — at least, if a certain blog post was anything to go by.

“The idea of GNOME OS has been around for a couple of years,” wrote GNOME UX designer Allan Day in said post following the recent GNOME developers conference. “The aspirations that are driving this process include things like providing a better experience for application developers, automated testing, sandboxed applications and broad hardware compatibility.”

Erm, what was that, you say? A GNOME OS?

Why yes, in fact — you did hear that right. But with all the ensuing din throughout the Linux blogosphere, it’s been hard to hear much of anything else ever since.

‘For Testing and Development’

Now, it must be noted that the forthcoming operating system isn’t intended to serve as a brand-new distro.

“Let me be clear: that is not the case,” Day wrote. “While the creation of a standalone GNOME OS install does feature as a part of our plans, this is primarily intended as a platform for testing and development.”

Still, more than a few bloggers are still scratching their heads in wonder.

‘It Should Be 1st of April!’

“Hobbywork. Nothing more,” wrote Stefano Leva in the comments on Day’s post, for example. “The digital battlefield is very clear: Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.”

Similarly, “the horrible reviews that Windows 8 is getting should be a warning to Gnome developers,” warned Joe Buck. “Don’t break the desktop in a misguided attempt to unify the tablet and the desktop; don’t remove functionality from the desktop that isn’t available on tablets.”

Even more so: “The date of the article is wrong,” quipped 2o718 on PCWorld. “It should be 1st of April!”

Down at the Linux blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Saloon, opinions weren’t much more optimistic.

‘Are There Any Adults Over There?’

“Just what we need: an OS written by people too arrogant to listen to their own users’ feedback,” mused consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack, for example. “I predict it will have less success than their desktop.”

Indeed, “this is the announcement that made me seriously wonder if mass psychosis has taken hold of the GNOME team,” agreed Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien.

“At a time when users are fleeing them and distros are abandoning them as the default desktop, they need to stop the bleeding, not look for new challenges to take on,” O’Brien added. “Seriously, are there any adults over there?”

‘Let’s Hope Reason Prevails’

GNOME 2 is “widely used for productive people creating software and systems,” observed blogger Robert Pogson. “I don’t see any advantage for them using touch-screens or a touch-centric OS. The time wasted moving between keyboard and screen can never be recovered.”

Of course, “such an environment might be useful for testing the resulting product intended to run in a touchy environment for consumers, but there already are GNU/Linux and Android/Linux touch-enabled environments,” Pogson added. “I don’t see the need for one more, but what do I know?”

Looking ahead, however, “I fear GNOME OS is yet another example of GNOME going astray, diverting energy from what it does well to pure research which may or may not bear fruit,” Pogson opined.

“We need both to remain functional to ensure the future viability of GNU/Linux,” he concluded. “The move from GNOME 2 to 3 was not encouraging. The ever-increasing bloat of GNOME is not encouraging. Let’s hope reason prevails.”

‘This Is Just How FOSS Works’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet was even less impressed.

“BWA HA HA HA HA…oh they’re serious?” hairyfeet began. “BWA HA HA HA HA… man that’s funny! They’re bleeding out, don’t have enough devs as it is, have run off most of the community, and NOW they think they can pull off GNOME OS?

“GNOME will be dead in 3, replaced by Mate or a forked GNOME 2,” hairyfeet predicted. “Heck, even Debian pulled GNOME from being the default desktop.”

In other words, “it’s over, it’s done, the fat lady is down the street eating a sandwich,” he said. “This is just how FOSS works in that if you tick off the community and refuse to listen, they’ll just route around the damage with a fork or simply go somewhere else.”

‘A Vanity Project’

Looking at the prospect more specifically, “what would GNOME OS have to offer that we don’t already have?” hairyfeet asked. “Let’s face it, X86 is owned by MSFT, which leaves ARM, which is owned by Google and Apple. There just isn’t any room in mobile for another player — just ask MSFT, who has spent billions chasing mobile and has jack squat to show for it.”

GNOME “might have been able to pull something off during the heyday of GNOME 2, but now? Not a chance,” he opined. “GNOME 3 is right up there with Unity on the hate scale.

“Tell the GNOME guys to get the lights on their way out because between Mate, LXDE, XFCE and KDE, frankly nobody really cares about GNOME anymore,” hairyfeet concluded. “Certainly there aren’t enough lovers of GNOME 3 to make GNOME OS anything more than a vanity project.”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

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