Are open source developers too dominant? Ubuntu, Firefox prove yes

ZDNet readers are excited about Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope. And who wouldn't be?

ZDNet readers are excited about Ubuntu Jaunty Jackalope. And who wouldn't be? With each incarnation, the Linux-based operating system steps further from the shadow of its geekiness.

But as more is revealed of "Jaunty Jackalope," officially the upcoming Ubuntu 9.04 release, experts seem to be less and less impressed.

Take ZDNet Hardware 2.0 blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, who expresses his disappointment in the latest alpha 5 release of the Linux distro and its pending successor:

There was very little to get excited about (OpenOffice.org 3.0 … woohoo … yawn). In fact, even the next release (9.10, or Karmic Koala) which is over six months away, has nothing that really gets my blood moving. Sure, there's dedicated netbook support, but I don't see myself getting all that enthusiastic about that.

Has Ubuntu development plateaued? Is the best that we can expect the from now on evolutionary changes rather as opposed to revolutionary ones?

Furthermore, PC World's Keir Thomas says the most successful open source desktop projects -- Mozilla Firefox and Ubuntu -- have settled into complacency. First, Firefox:

Do you remember why we all switched to Firefox back in 2003? One phrase popped-up constantly: "It's small and light, yet has all the features I need." [...] But the Firefox people seem to have forgotten this. Nowadays Firefox takes at least five seconds to start on any of my computers. [...] Most people's favorite Firefox features aren't part of Firefox at all, and are provided by plugins.

The problem is that the Firefox developers have lots touch with what made Firefox so great. If Microsoft pulled itself together and introduced, say, an ultra-light browser that had a plug-in structure and guaranteed security, then I suspect many Windows users would switch at the drop of a hat (Google Chrome developers: take note).

Second, Ubuntu:

The most exciting thing is OpenOffice.org 3.0 and, well, that's not actually very exciting. It's the same with the recently-announced 9.10 release. This will bring a focus on netbooks, we're told, which is very wise. But it appears that, apart from a snazzy graphical boot, the desktop experience will be left to stagnate once again. As with most Ubuntu releases, there will probably be furious tweaking under the hood, or in the backroom support services, but this means nothing if it isn't visible, and if it doesn't improve the end-user experience.

Sobering words, indeed.

In the case of Firefox, I am completely in accord. What was once a fast-and-light browser is no longer (and I don't even run more than a couple of plugins!), and I've since given Google Chrome center stage on my desktop after a lengthy trial period, despite its own shortcomings.

As for Ubuntu, well, that's your call, readers.

Are open source developers too dominant? In both of these cases, it seems each program's developers were mindful of crossing their "T"s and dotting their "I"s but neglectful of the overall end-user experience. In both these cases, the result is an alternative to current offerings that isn't as compelling as its predecessor was, then.

Or, as Adrian put it, is the OS simply "slowly becoming irrelevant" in an application-focused world?

What do you think?