Looking back in time
Jason just pointed out in this email that the fact that we had a window of opportunity during the netbook boom that was lost was a failure of GNOME as a project. I'd like to point out that first of all, I think that if an ISV and an OEM failed to use GNOME and engage with our community to affect change so that they could build their own product, it's their failure, not ours. Nonetheless he has a point.
It's worth noting that people buying netbooks just wanted more portable and cheaper version of the traditional Windows desktop, and that's why demand for netbooks shrunken after a while. It failed to match the expectation of the user, and no matter how good and perfect GNOME was back then, we would have failed to match that expectation.
However we can learn a few things about what's been happening since then.
I think we succeeded long ago in the goal of making Unix usable enough for most people. What we are missing now is a system, that is, a complete OS that is capable of holding a complete ecosystem around him. OS+OEM+User is not the whole story, ISVs and the relationship between them and the user is a huge piece of the success of a product.
For most developers, there are actually very few reasons at all to write apps for GNOME these days other than trying to help the open source ecosystem. Which is a valid and noble reason to write apps, but it won't bring Photoshop, or Autocad, or iTunes, or Starcraft II into our platform. Back in the early 00s it wasn't as crazy to think about us as a community being able to catch up and rewrite the Windows 98 essential application collection for the average user at some point. I think we are stuck in that thought that if we replicate every single application the Windows users have we will at some point get the users. I think we need to run away from that notion, because we are a small community after all, we cannot write every single app from scratch. Focusing on helping others on creating, building and delivering their apps to the users, and having fun while doing so, and making a profit while doing so as well is a much more productive use of our limited efforts.
A positive prospect for the future
I strongly think we can achieve this goal.
I am not saying that we are not making steps towards this goal at all, a lot of work is being done, but if we could concentrate the same amount of energy that we did for the 3.0 release on this goal, the possibilities are pretty encouraging.