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What's Up with the GNOME Linux Desktop?

UPDATED: It takes money and it takes new ideas to build a better desktop, both of which are being raised by the open source GNOME Foundation. GNOME is one of the most popular Linux desktop GUIs and is included in nearly every Linux distribution.

The GNOME Foundation is now getting the official support of both Motorola and Google as sponsors and members of the GNOME Board of Advisors. The new advisors come as GNOME continues to expand the mobile Linux footprint as well as gear up for the next big thing – GNOME 3.0.

"What is significant about Motorola and Google joining now is that the mobile space is really hot in open source software," Stormy Peters Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation told InternetNews.com. "The GNOME Mobile group was announced recently and we're trying to get people to participate."

Google and Motorola are already using GNOME-based technology in their respective mobile efforts. Both Google's Android and the Motorola-backed LiMO effort use the GIMP Tool Kit as part of their underlying infrastructure for graphics and creating graphical user interfaces (GUIs).

Peters noted that both Google and Motorola will now contribute $10,000 each to the GNOME Foundation. Peters added that both companies have been contributors to GNOME before and both have sponsored a number of GNOME initiatives.

But just because the two new GNOME Board of Advisor members are donating money, doesn't necessarily mean that they have undue influence on GNOME development. Peters argued that control of development is still in the hands of developers. That said, Peters concedes being on the Board of Advisors has its benefits.

"At the next advisory board meeting we will have a couple of the key developers and release team staff talk about GNOME 3.0 to get their feedback on the direction," Peters commented. "So while they won't get to directly say here's what GNOME 3.0 should be, they will get to voice their views. The advisory board definitely has influence over the project."

GNOME is currently at release 2.24 which came out in September. GNOME's chief rival in the Linux desktop space, the KDE project rolled out its major update KDE 4 earlier this year introducing a different approach to the Linux desktop.

GNOME 3 waits in the wings

Peters noted that following the release of KDE 4 there was some talk among GNOME developers to try and push out GNOME 3. But Peters said the decision was made not to try and rush out a major version release number in response to competition

"We are looking at GNOME 3.0 not for the short term but for the long term," Peters said. "We're looking at how the Internet has changed and how people interact with their computers."

While Peters was hesitant to put a firm timeline on when GNOME 3.0 would be available she did note that the 2009/2010 timeframe is possible. The actual changes that will be in GNOME 3.0 are also not yet entirely known though Peters argued the changes won't be minor.

"It will be more than a tweak," Peters stated. "It will be the whole user experience, from the look and feel, to how files are managed to how it syncs with your mobile phone -- really the whole package. It will be very much a change for users and how they use their computers."

Updates prior version to clarify that GTK also stands for GIMP Tool Kit. .