Is Maui Shell the future for the Linux desktop?

A new Linux desktop is on the horizon, offering something unique. Are the developers and designers paying attention to the right features and the right audience?

Image: PegasuStudio/Shutterstock

Stephen King once said that Clive Barker was the writer of “The Future of Horror” and that his name was Clive Barker. What does this have do with technology? Although it doesn’t have much to do with tech, it is relevant to what I will be discussing. 

The Linux community recently discovered a new darling upstart. Maui Desktop is the darling. 

Great. Another desktop to offer competition in a highly saturated market? Hold up … this one is special.

It is all about convergence.

Great. Another attempt at reviving a failed idea. It might have been better to start this with “Wuzzzup?” Or “Talk to the Hand.”

Okay, enough with all the pop culture references. Now, what’s it all about?

SEE: Linux turns 30: The celebration of open source software (free PDF) (TechRepublic).

Thanks to the generosity of Nitrux 1.8It’s now possible for you to see a preview of Maui Shell. Although it is still in its early stages, with the possibility that it will come out of beta in Fall 2022, I won’t lie: It’s quite impressive.

Be aware that Nitrux is still in beta and the 1.8 version of Nitrux will only give you a taste of what’s coming. The glimpse that I have seen suggests that Maui’s designers and developers took the best features from many Linux desktops and combined them into one. It contains a little bit of elementary OS’s Pantheon as well as GNOME goodness. There is also a hint of KDE, Cinnamon, and Deepin Desktop. You have Maui Shell when you combine all that with one desktop.

Unfortunately, the current desktop is not that impressive. The default desktop includes a dock with two entries, and a top-bar with a system tray (notification area)Figure A).

Figure A

mauia.jpg

The default Maui Shell desktop appears pretty primitive at the moment.

To view categories of apps, click the Application Overview (or whatever they call it).Figure B).

Figure B

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All the applications are automatically installed with Nitrux1.8

While you can open most installed apps, the Maui Settings app won’t open. Why? Beta.

But why not another desktop?

This is the big issue and I have a few answers. First, let me address the elephant in this room.

Convergence.

Wait, what? Convergence works in one way. A mobile phone runs an OS in a very typical way. But, beneath the skin, there is a subsystem that waits for the dock to be present. When the user docks their mobile device, the OS switches to “desktop mode,” which is a more desktop-like OS that displays all information on an external monitor.

That sounds amazing, right?

This is where the problem lies: there’s no reliable, marketable Linux phone with which to connect. The Pinephone is a great option, but it’s more for developers and hard-core users. Pinephones will not find their way into the hands and pockets of average users, no matter how great they are. Why? Because they’re neither Android nor iOS. The simple truth is that mobile devices are under the tyranny of Apple and Google. It’s impossible to escape this. 

SEE: 40+ Linux and open source terms you must know (TechRepublic Premium).

Although the concept of convergence sounds great, it is only a conceptual idea. In practice, it would mean that you would be using a slower desktop and not as powerful as a nonconvergent one. The problem with Maui Shell is that users won’t take advantage of convergence if they don’t create an app that overlays on Android. Users will instead want a nice-looking desktop.

This is the core of the problem.

Linux offers many desktops. Linux and open-source both are about choice. It can be difficult to recommend the right desktop for the right person at the moment, which is a problem that many of us have.

  • GNOME is about as stable and performant as any desktop available, but it has the disadvantage of being unfamiliar enough for new users.
  • KDE is very familiar, but it adds some bits that could pose problems for new users.
  • Pantheon is a wonderful product, but it comes mostly with elementary OS. It also suffers from a lack of installed applications in its AppCenter.
  • Although Cinnamon is a wonderful desktop, it can be a little outdated for those who want something more modern.
  • Xfce can be too much.
  • Enlightenment can be very cool, but new users will find it far beyond their heads.

So, you see, there is a place for a new desktop … so long as it knows what it is. And that’s what I believe the developers and designers of Maui Shell should be concentrating on—a desktop that offers just the right blend of all the good parts of each existing desktop to culminate into a UI that offers something for every type of user. However, the new user should be the target market. Why? Because this is what every Linux distribution should aim for. Linux distributions have been preaching at the choir for years, and it has done nothing but remind the choir of how much they enjoy being in the choir.

Maui Shell might change this. If it doesn’t promote convergence (which is a big if), Yes, it should include convergence, but if you already have the foundations for a desktop that is ideal for both new and old users, you’ve got your hook. It’s your hook.

If you are interested, I highly recommend it Get a copy Nitrux 1.8 ISO hereMake a virtual machine, and you’ll be able to experience Maui Shell. Remember that this beta version is only a test, so don’t expect to use it much beyond the initial kick.

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