I believe in limiting customization to improve consistency and to consolidate your identity.
But if you take this path, you better ensure that your UX is rock-solid and will satisfy the majority of your users (what Apple does).
I believe that the Gnome User Experience (interaction and visual) is poorly made (I have the feeling that most of the decisions here have not been made by UX people, and have not been seriously backed by user studies - but I'd be glad to be proved otherwise).
I also believe that Gnome is targeting an audience they don't have, leaving their current (potential) audience frustrated.
I also believe that limiting customization is important. Any Firefox dev can tell how terribly hard it is to improve Firefox without breaking addons.
GNOME does not have the man power of Mozilla, let alone Apple. They want to create great things by implementing them one at a time. that's the open-source way, and most free softwares are built like that.
I feel the comparison with Apple is somewhat unfair, because GNOME does not have enough developers to release a complete product at every release (or should they just work in the dark and not release anything for the next 2 years?). Ubuntu is in a similar same situation, and they do improve over time.
So they do it one thing at a time and try to involve as much the community as they can.
If I had to direct such a project with the resources they have, I don't know that I would have made better choices.
Also, my feeling about the GNOME UX, is that decisions come from UX people, and that it is the very reason it enrages us developers: we have different ways to approach interacting with a computer, we are very picky about workflows, and we tend to reject innovation if it makes us change our habits.
And that's where I agree with you about leaving their current audience frustrated: GNOME wants to reach out to "normal users", but its user base is mostly hackers. It is hard to innovate in the UX space when your users have their workflows and interaction patterns burnt into their brains and fingers.
I believe that someone who never touched a computer before would much prefer the GNOME UX over a more traditional desktop environments.
> I also believe that limiting customization is important. Any Firefox dev can tell how terribly hard it is to improve Firefox without breaking addons. GNOME does not have the man power of Mozilla, let alone Apple. They want to create great things by implementing them one at a time.
If Gnome doesn't have the resources to do proper UX design, the answer is NOT to force incomplete/broken UX on users. It's to leave options open for others to fix the UX as needed.
Design is about making choices, but if you don't have the resources to find/make the best choice at least allow the end user to make the choice they prefer instead.
What I find amusing though, is that even OSX allows more customization than Unity/Gnome. In OSX I can turn off backlight dimming on battery, I can move the dock to different sides of the screen (essential for multi-monitor setups), and I can also tweak other things via plists. There is also more than one screensaver.