Flashback to 2007: “GNOME will be a platform or a big tent”

3:54 pm gnome

I was more than a little amused when (in a vanity exercise) I re-read Joe Brockmeier’s 2007 profile of me while I was OpenWengo community manager. Among the topics we talked about was where I saw GNOME going, and I said this:

Neary says he thinks GNOME will either grow into different projects — such as a One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) GNOME, a Home and Small Office GNOME, and Enterprise GNOME — or the project will shrink to the GNOME development platform, “which will then be re-used by third parties to build the interfaces they’re interested in on top of it.

“We have already started to see this trend. Distributors cherry-pick the applications they are interested in for their own desktop projects, which are then themed and targeted for their core audience. The variety of platforms and human interfaces being built upon the GNOME platform is dazzling. These go from small-form-factor interfaces like the Nokia N800 and the Maemo application framework and OpenMoko and GPE through to innovative interfaces like Sugar from OLPC, which is totally unfamiliar to someone used to the GNOME desktop, but which is undeniably GNOME-based.”

It isn’t just the embedded or odd form-factor devices that are customizing GNOME, says Neary. “Even the major distributions have modified the GNOME interface to suit their needs. The openSUSE, Red Hat Enterprise, and Ubuntu desktops all behave in different ways, and have different target audiences.”

From memory, I don’t recall mentioning Home & Small Office or Enterprise GNOME, but I certainly remember saying that I thought we should adopt Sugar as “GNOME Education”, maybe Maemo as “GNOME Mobile”, moblin as “GNOME Netbook”, etc.

So it looks like the latter scenario has started to come to pass. The GNOME project is concentrating on defining the core platform and distributors are building usecase-specific or brand-differentiating user interfaces on top. Is it too late for GNOME to embrace this trend, or have we become technology suppliers only?

8 Responses

  1. Murray Cumming Says:

    And those all failed. It doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then.

  2. ethana2 Says:

    Anything can fail if it doesn’t have properly educated user interface engineers and designers on board.

  3. Mathias Hasselmann Says:

    > Have we become technology suppliers only?

    With Nokia picking up GNOME’s central idea of providing a stack of compatible libraries for Qt [1]. With Meego maybe gaining traction, GNOME even might beyond that point. Of course my view is quite limited to my challenging job, my family and other stuff. Skipped two GUADECs in a row – same one me! So I might just miss all the interesting and innovative projects happening around GNOME right now.

    [1] http://labs.qt.nokia.com/2010/10/26/qt-is-going-modular/

  4. Juanjo Marin Says:

    At least we can say we have an good enough platform 🙂

    And I hope our community can influence the direction of free desktop for some more years !

  5. jc Says:

    Also interesting to note: no one was upset Sugar, Moblin, or any of the others was started – everyone easily accepted that these were interfaces based on gnome but targeted at a given use-case. Canonical are basically doing the same thing, but for netbook/laptop/home desktop. The main difference is that shell is more similar to this use than the others (but still not aimed at the same audience).

  6. Jef Spaleta Says:

    Also note that none of those other efforts had a corporate executive state that their differentiated work was meant to “compliment” the gnome offering..as Shuttleworth did in May when he introduced Unity. Nor did anyone involved in those efforts attempt to claim their differentiated interface was really and truly just a GNOME desktop with a different shell. Each of the previous efforts had leadership That understood and communicated that their work was differentiated and not “GNOME”. Moblin didn’t confuse the issue…nor did Sugar. People who cared about the technology building blocks could see and discover the GNOME heritage but the leader of these differentiated efforts did not attempt to suggest these where “GNOME” to their users.

    It’s not the differentiation that is upsetting. Its the mixed messaging associated with the differentiation that Canonical is doing. Messaging collaboration when there isn’t. Messaging their work is GNOME when it isn’t.


  7. Links 29/10/2010: ‘The Year of the Linux Desktop’ Again, China Has Biggest Computer (Runs GNU/Linux), Wine 1.3.6, Sub-notebooks Around | Techrights Says:

    […] Flashback to 2007: “GNOME will be a platform or a big tent” […]

  8. apu Nahasapeemapetilon Says:

    Gnome Mobile?
    Wow.. whatever happened to that?
    I know that once Qt became free enough (I remember still the zealots crying about this which led to Gnome), it got a huge traction in mobile while Gnome’s efforts just vanished.

    With no mobile project to interest companies, I think Gnome missed the boat big time considering everyone is running away from the desktop towards portable/mobile environments.

    >The openSUSE, Red Hat Enterprise, >and Ubuntu desktops all behave in >different ways, and have different >target audiences

    This is the worse of the Linux myths.
    Ask desktop users what the difference is between distros using the same DE and they will point out the basic wallpapers, fonts, icons.

    Seriously, put three distros side by side, dress them up identically and ask people you know about them.
    We see this at LUGfests all the time with people asking “are those the same thing?”