I’m going out on a limb saying it, but here’s my brief prediction — probably worthless, overdramatic and ill-informed, but my prediction anyway: Xubuntu’s push toward Gnome applications is going to marginalize the distro.
My logic: First, the Xubuntu user base is nowhere near as hefty as the Ubuntu crowd. (Kubuntu is small too, but not as slim as Xubuntu.) The polls — here and here — regarding Gnome applications got only sparse replies. And while the xubuntu-dev and xubuntu-users mailing lists are sometimes active, much in the past week or two has been bickering between developers. It doesn’t suggest a buzz of activity.
Second, if this Gnomeward trend is followed, then the only difference between Ubuntu and Xubuntu is going to be the desktop manager. Even the layout is already the same. Everything else — the session manager, the utilities, the applications and so on — are probably going to be borrowed from the Gnome version.
Furthermore, there has to be a certain cost involved in keeping another “official” version of Ubuntu around. I couldn’t tell you what it would be, or who pays it (Canonical?), but I’m sure there’s some sort of weight attached to the project.
So in total, we have a complete and full distro which has a slim following, that is almost indistinguishable from the most popular version, contains the same software as its bigger brother, and incurs some sort of expense — bandwidth, server space, whatever — to somebody somewhere, probably in an office on the Isle of Man.
So that’s how I arrive at this doom and gloom. If Xubuntu keeps incorporating Gnome-based software into its default structure, then really, the separate version becomes moot, and I would not be surprised if it were demoted.
Oh, I’m sure there would still be a xubuntu-desktop, and probably some unique wallpaper and the prerequisite XFCE structure. But aside from that, will there still be, for example, entire Xubuntu ISOs? Hmm. …
Of course I’d rather be wrong. I still love Xubuntu more than either of its fat sisters, and I’d sooner install Xubuntu on any computer I own than just about any other full distro. I just don’t like the direction it’s headed, and that’s why I’m screaming “Don’t do it!” from my rooftop.
But there are other XFCE-based distros, and some of them are exceptional collections — SLAX Popcorn for one, or Wolvix and Zenwalk, as others. If you need a distro that will make your computer go zoom, and if Xubuntu is really just Gnome with a thin lacquer of XFCE on it, which are you likely you try?