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System 76 Says Cosmic Desktop Is Late but on Schedule

While the alpha release of the new scratch-built-in-Rust Cosmic desktop has been pushed back by a couple of months, that’s not expected to delay the launch of the production-ready version that will be the default DE in Pop!_OS 24.04 later this year.

Linux computer maker System 76 says that while its new Cosmic desktop is on schedule for it to be the default DE for Pop!_OS 24.04 which will release later this year, its first alpha release will be pushed back from the end of March to the end of May.

Although a desktop called Cosmic has been the default DE for Pop!_OS for many years, the version that will ship with Pop! 24.04 later this year will pretty much be the same in name only. While the version that ships now is based on Gnome, the version that the folks at System 76 are working on now will be scratch built from the ground up, with loads of new features and its own accompanying support applications.

Ironically, the delay with the alpha release isn’t because of any difficulties or snafus in development, but because development of the application suite is ahead of schedule. Because of this, the decision was made to hold the alpha release to include the application suite.

“Cosmic apps showcase what’s possible with the libcosmic widget library, the iced toolkit, and the Cosmic theming system,” System 76 said in a blog entry that was posted on Wednesday. “They also help demonstrate the long-term vision for the platform. With how far they’ve come, we’ve decided to delay the alpha release until the core apps reach MVP (Minimum Viable Product) so that they may be included with the initial ISO.”

Alpha releases are nowhere near ready for production use, with features that are released with only an engineering sign-off and little to no quality assurance work, so things are expected to break. This means that in the overall scheme of things, alpha releases aren’t really important to anybody but developers, who need to see how the software holds up in the wild when installed on various hardware configurations.

“Cosmic will have at least two alpha releases,” System 76 said. “After the first beta, features and major bugs are considered resolved and new code requires engineering, QA, and sometimes design sign-off before release.”

A Little Cosmic History

Initially, Pop!_OS, a Linux distro that System 76 developed and first released in 2017 to be the default operating system for its laptops, desktops, and servers, used its own modified version of Gnome as its default DE. That changed in 2021, when the company began shipping with its own Gnome-based DE, Cosmic. About five months after that, word got out that the company had decided to drop Gnome and go it alone alone to build a completely new desktop environment from scratch in Rust.

“It’s early and we’re at the project development/ramping up, hiring, and expertise phase,” Carl Richell, System 76’s founder and CEO told me at the time in a private message on Twitter. “Should it move forward, I’d expect a product around mid 2023.”

For a while now the company has been posting progress reports on the project in the blog section of the company’s website, such as “A Countdown to Alpha” post it published on Valentine’s Day, and Wednesday’s report that the first alpha release would be delayed by a couple of months.

In Wednesday’s blog, it was revealed that we can expect Cosmic’s public unveiling to happen in late April at LinuxFest Northwest, a popular Linux festival that’s held each year in Bellingham, Washington, during a scheduled presentation by Richell on Saturday, April 27th at noon.

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