I clicked on my username, entered my password and chose "Ubuntu Desktop Edition" for the desktop session. But instead of Gnome or Unity popping up, it appeared that what I got was a very unfinished and incomplete desktop session. There was no launcher, no panel or even an easy logout mechanism. I was ready to dismiss Alpha 1 as a starting point only for the developers. FAIL.
But it turned out the Unity launcher and panel was present, but required desktop effects to be turned on to use them. So I did just that and this is what appeared:
|Ubuntu Unity "Desktop"|
Looks like a cross between Gnome Shell and Ubuntu's Netbook UI. What initially annoyed me was that all the entries I created in my Desktop directory were being shown twice: in the launcher and on the desktop screen. And notice the launcher entries displaying a question mark as the icon? That's because it seems the launcher can't display icons that are not stored on the system icon directories. I'd have to hover my mouse over the icons to tell what they really are. FAIL.
But the worst current feature of this release is finding all the applications. You have to click on the Ubuntu logo on the top left of the screen, and Nautilus will appear showing you the /usr/share/applications directory. Ugh. No application menu grouping or sorting by task at all here, just a single directory being spit out in front of you. FAIL.
As far as I can see, the current incarnation of the Unity desktop isn't even a true desktop environment yet. It's still a major work-in-progress, much like when KDE 4 first appeared. No doubt we'll see much improvement in future alpha releases, but for now I'll be sticking with Gnome/KDE/LXDE for my real desktop needs. Unity still needs a lot of work to be easy enough for casual use.