Red Hat 8.0 is scheduled to be formally released on Sept. 30 and many
in the Linux user community are watching the development of the new
“Bluecurve” desktop design very closely.
In the retail edition of Red Hat that’s coming out this Monday, the
Linux vendor is replacing the traditional GNOME interface with
Bluecurve, a Red Hat-created GUI theme combining elements of both
GNOME and KDE, the major rival to GNOME (see Figures 1 and 2).
Bluecurve, the controversial new GUI in Red Hat 8.0, looks likely to
appear in Red Hat Advanced Server, too, possibly with a few tweaks by
Red Hat, but only if it scores points with users of Red Hat 8.0.
Depending on user reaction to 8.0, Red Hat will also consider rolling
Bluecurve into the next edition of Advanced Server, set for release
some time between May and November of next year, said Erik Troan, Red
Hat’s director of product marketing.
Red Hat won’t need to look too far for user feedback. “The Linux community is vocal,” Troan noted. Ultimately, though, 8.0 will face user surveys and focus groups.
“We’re waiting to see whether customers give [Bluecurve] a ‘thumbs
up,’ or a ‘thumbs down.’ We’ll include a new user interface in
Advanced Server whenever it’s ready for the enterprise,” according to
Refuting industry speculation that Red Hat is trying to move into the
desktop mass market, Troan said he doesn’t expect 8.0 to make much of
a dent in the overall Windows space, despite its new GUI. According
to statistics from IDC, Red Hat’s share of the retail pie climbed
about 50 percent from 2000 to 2001.
Still, Red Hat’s share remains “miniscule” compared to Microsoft’s, Troan admitted. The 8.0 edition “won’t be for your typical Microsoft Office/AOL user.”
Red Hat does hope to gain more ground, though, among technical users
and other “single users” from both the Unix and Windows sides of the
fence. “Single users” of 8.0 might range all the way from call center
managers and Lotus Notes administrators to Wall Street analysts and
photo editors, he illustrated. “Linux has some really cool photo
Red Hat’s current research shows that about 34 percent of its retail
customers use Red Hat at home, 13 percent use Red Hat at work, and 50
percent use the product in both places.
“So 85 percent are using Red Hat at home, to some degree,” Troan
pointed out. From that information, the company concludes that many
customers are “training themselves on Linux” outside of the work
“We’re not trying to create a ‘third user interface,'” Troan added,
again denying some industry buzz. Instead, 8.0 is aimed at “a
consistent look and feel [which is] ‘polished’ and more ‘3D.'”
“We didn’t want to use just GNOME and get KDE users upset. We didn’t
want to use just KDE and get GNOME users upset. Instead, we combined
the two, and got everyone upset,” he quipped.
Red Hat has created a “KDE-like theme for GNOME, and a GNOME-like
theme for KDE,” said Brian Stevens, Red Hat’s senior director of
engineering. Users can install either GNOME, KDE, or both GUIs.
With the KDE default configuration, customers will get “mainly KDE
apps.” With the GNOME default configuration, they’ll get “mainly GNOME
apps.” Customers installing both KDE and GNOME, though, will be able
to pick and choose from among all apps included in the package,
“We’ve also worked on things like the menus and toolbars in GNOME and
KDE, to make them more uniform,” according to Stevens.
Jacqueline Emigh is a writer for LinuxPlanet.com, an internetnews.com sister site.