Hope Returns for Linux Desktop

So you may be wondering why I care so much about finding the next generation desktop UI. I have expressed here my hope for Android and whether it works to bring the advances made in tablet UI design to the desktop. I have also expressed my dismay at how ugly, i.e. low usability, that the Linux desktop brings today. Windows 7 is fine but the underlying OS is not very good for developers needing the great tools that *nix brings. And that brings us to Mac.

Many have noticed how often you see developers using Macs. It seems to be the standard platform for the Android devs at Google. Many Eclipse developers are using them as evidenced by number of Apple logos on laptop lids you see looking out to the crowds at EclipseCon. The Mac seems to bring the best of both worlds to the developer, a great UI along with a powerful Unix operating system underneath.

But I have one problem with that. My employer won’t buy me a Mac, not many do. And I’m not willing to pay my own money to enter into the walled garden. My family is happy with their Windows PCs. It’s what they’re used to, and it runs the games they play. And I have more important things to spend money on.

So it all seemed like doom. The alternatives just weren’t there and my hopes seemed more like dreams. But something’s changed. Android does seem to be getting closer to the desktop as evidenced by the new tablet/netbook convertibles that are out and coming down the pipe. But the thing that has me excited actually is two advances in the last few months with Linux.

One, the Wayland display server seems to be gaining momentum. Or at least I’ve managed to build it and have seen it running. It throws away X, the bane of the Linux desktop experience, and replaces it with an OpenGL compositor. I expect that momentum to accelerate thanks to the second advance. And that is Qt 5 and it’s declaration of Wayland as one of it’s key target platforms. Combine that with graphics acceleration that becomes the heart of the Qt 5 architecture, I think the possibility now exists for a Linux desktop that looks as great as Mac and with the same *nix underpinnings. Perfect.

And with Qt’s use of declarative UI with JavaScript underpinnings, called QML, it should be easy to build a complete desktop environment. No Gnome. No KDE. Something new that gives us a new level of usability. My dreams are turning back into hope. Linux may just have it’s day yet. And developers will benefit.

Update: That reminds me, I think the Eclipse front end should be replaced with Qt 5. It runs everywhere Eclipse does. Now that would be something…