On why I have moved to Xfce4
The problem for me is that Gnome 3 and KDE 4 (and Unity) are bloated and heavy. This is a fact. I do not really care how they look like. I need my computational resources to be used for doing actual work and not for showcasing useless bling-bling and running nonessential services and daemons. Performance, performance, performance.
Gnome 2 is about the heaviest thing I can stand. So I have migrated to Xfce. Xfce 4.6 is light enough, very stable, functional, versatile, familiar,… I think that Xfce4 is right now the best compromise between GUI-driven functionality and weight and it therefore seems Gnome2’s logical continuation and replacement.
I have also tried LXDE and Enlightenment and they both are light and nice desktops environments, but they both have stability issues (it seems that Xfce 4.8 is also giving troubles). Stability, stability, stability. Other DE and window managers are also fine, but normally they lack GUI-driven functionality (yes, if I did not care at all about GUI-driven functionality, I would be using just a shell, period). Functionality, functionality, functionality.
If you are looking for a nice-looking desktop with plenty of functionality, KDE is your man. Gnome 3 is heavier than Gnome 2 and yet it has lost functionality. Besides, when you have two 1920×1200 24-inch monitors, running a heavy desktop environment with reduced functionality that makes your screen look like a huge mobile phone seems a bit ridiculous… If the primary indented use are netbooks and embedded devices, great, but then I guess it needs to be skimmed down a bit.
Please, do not get me wrong. I think it is great to make free software prettier, but, does it really need to be also heavier on resources? I do not think so and E17 is there to prove me right. Resources, resources, resources.
In any case, it does not matter how pretty free operating systems will become, as far as common people will not easily find them pre-installed in their devices, free OSs will remain the privilege of a minority. To this respect, I guess that at the moment the embedded systems market seems more conquerable than the desktop market. Yet, this does not mean that I want my workstation to look like a sillyphone, or whatever they are called.