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.
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 Troan.
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 editing apps."
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 setting.
"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, Stevens said.
"We've also worked on things like the menus and toolbars in GNOME and KDE, to make them more uniform," according to Stevens.