Why Should You Care About Gnome OS?

11/30/2012 3:50:34 PM

As reports emerge of developers working on Gnome OS, Mark Oakley looks at what it means for mobile platforms and the impact it could have on the Linux community

For the open-source movement, news of Mozilla's Firefox OS has been met with equal measures of excitement and skepticism. On the positive side, it's great to hear of a truly open-source environment that can aim its gaze, in the long run, to rival big hitters Android and iOS. On the negative, some would claim that it doesn't stand a chance of success. The smartphone industry is one of the most competitive around and despite the fact that Mozilla has hardware support on board in the shape of ZTE and Alcatel, it looks to be a long and arduous path ahead for the OS.

Description: Mozilla Firefox OS announced, coming by 2013

Mozilla Firefox OS announced, coming by 2013

And yet this hasn't stopped another open-source name making its own move in the mobile arena. Gnome is developing its own OS.

Doing It for Developers

The idea of a Gnome OS has been around for a few years, now, but renewed interest in the project has come about following the Gnome Users And Developers European Conference (GUADEC), in which Gnome community members no doubt eagerly discussed where it goes from here.

Writing a blog post on the matter, titled 'As far I know', user experience designer Allan Day laid out details about what the project is and clarified exactly what it isn't. For anyone who thinks Gnome OS is going to compete directly with existing distributions, that's far from the case.

"Some people seem to have assumed that Gnome OS is an effort to replace distributions, so let me be clear: that is not the case," wrote Day

So if that's what it isn't, what exactly is Gnome OS aimed at? It's all about developers and the overall enhancement and development of the Gnome Project, something which could do with a pick-me-up given the fact that so many within the Linux community feel that Gnome has somewhat lost its way. For a better insight on that, there's another blog post you should know about, this time from a Gnome developer, who doesn't exactly hold back.

In the post, titled 'Staring into the abyss', the developer Benjamin Otte bemoans much, including the fact that the entire project is understaffed, that it has no goals (referring to the project's own 'nondescript' description of itself as "a community that makes great software") and that the project's core developers are leaving it for pastures new. It's a long, clearly thought-out post, which reflects much of the mood surrounding Gnome.

It's not just Otte, either. At GUADEC, a couple of developers, Xan López and Juan Jose Sanchez, mentioned some of the key Gnome challenges in a presentation. They mentioned issues such as a "lack of direction and vision," and the project's current "focus on the traditional desktop."

Back to Otte, and one of the key issues he also cites is that the project's target users are leaving the desktop environment for more mobile platforms - something he notes Gnome does not work on. That's got to change.

Mobile Platforms

The introduction of Gnome OS - which we'll have to wait a while for, because it's due to land in March 2014 - will allow application developers to work on Gnome's associated SDKs and APIs in order to improve and enhance the user experience. With what Day calls a "new model for accessing content", work through Gnome OS will ultimately help to make Gnome the success everyone involved wants it to be. Theoretically, it should address the very problems developer Otte raises himself.

Description: Gnome OS

Gnome OS

The developer-focused Gnome OS will help in the development of Gnome 3, including work on touch compatibility. This doesn't mean that Gnome is forgetting about its desktop roots, which Day claims will remain the core focus of the community's work. However, it does accept that mobile hardware is unavoidable in the project's development.

Work has been done in this area already by the Gnome community, with users being encouraged to visit the touchscreen wiki page. With this renewed focus, however, Gnome's hardware future looks to be moving towards the mobile arena with interest. The development of Gnome OS will only help to facilitate this move, with a touch-compatible Gnome 3 planned for release in a maximum of 18 months.

So a focus on new mobile hardware but a desire to hold on to its core desktop audience. Gnome has a bit of work to do but it is trying to manoeuvre itself on the up again, with the OS helping developers to move the entire project forward. It's a much-needed boost for an environment that hasn't been feeling the love from all in the Linux community.

Good Timing

There is a feeling among some Gnome users - Linux Torvalds among them - that the project lost its way when it moved from its 2 release to 3. Torvalds has been very open with his thoughts on Gnome 3, commenting in a public Google+ discussion last year "Could you also fork gnome, and support a gnome-2 environment? I want my sane interfaces back. I have yet to meet anybody who likes the unholy mess that is gnome-3."

Torvalds went on to say "It's not that I have rendering problems with gnome3 (although I do have those too), it's that the user experience of Gnome3 even without rendering problems is unacceptable."

In exactly the same discussion, another Linux expert, Intel's chief Linux man. Dirk Hohndel, couldn't be any clearer "Gnome 3 is just completely unusable as far as I'm concerned."

With this level of disquiet from major voices within the Linux community, it's little wonder that the announcement of Gnome OS would have been met with skepticism from some quarters. For what it's worth, I'm all for it. It's great timing for Gnome to ride on the back of the announcement of Firefox OS in order to generate increased interest in open-source alternatives within the mobile platform community.

Android and iOS are so dominant in the tablet and smartphone arenas, any genuinely attractive open-source alternative would be welcome and Gnome has a large and experienced community behind it. The odds are stacked against it, of course. Much like Firefox OS, it's unlikely that Gnome 3 will really find a wide audience and, as Day admitted, its focus will remain on the desktop environment.

Description: Gnome 3

Gnome 3

But perhaps that's not the point. The reason Gnome OS is great news and the reason I believe that it deserves to succeed, is that users deserve Gnome 3 to succeed. Those in the community who have grown disenchanted are almost entitled for it to work, and if Gnome OS means that developers can put their heads together and turn the doubters round, that can only be a good thing.

Gnome needs a new direction and that might not mean a truly successful mobile distribution, but by giving developers a chance to make a difference and by giving them renewed impetus, it's just possible that desktop environment could receive a boost of its own. And by at least acknowledging the mobile market. Gnome's community is proving itself capable of adapting to the times. Many will hope it succeeds.

Top 10
Michael Kors Designs Stylish Tech Products for Women
Review : Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Review : Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM
Review : Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2
Review : Philips Fidelio M2L
Review : Alienware 17 - Dell's Alienware laptops
Review Smartwatch : Wellograph
Review : Xiaomi Redmi 2
Extending LINQ to Objects : Writing a Single Element Operator (part 2) - Building the RandomElement Operator
Extending LINQ to Objects : Writing a Single Element Operator (part 1) - Building Our Own Last Operator
- First look: Apple Watch

- 3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cell Phone Battery (part 1)

- 3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cell Phone Battery (part 2)
Popular Tags
Video Tutorail Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel Microsoft OneNote Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Project Microsoft Visio Microsoft Word Active Directory Exchange Server Sharepoint Sql Server Windows Server 2008 Windows Server 2012 Windows 7 Windows 8 Adobe Flash Professional Dreamweaver Adobe Illustrator Adobe Photoshop CorelDRAW X5 CorelDraw 10 windows Phone 7 windows Phone 8 Iphone