Hmm, it is hard to address the target group of Mageia. A quick answer would be that targets to a lot of people. Yes, Mageia is one of the most popular distros around and is relatively a new one.
Mageia isn’t for enthusiasts, isn’t about the latest packages, isn’t a LTS and it doesn’t ship any commercial support, but is user friendly. The best words I can find to describe it, would be a Community Edition of Canonical’s Ubuntu.
What is Mageia
Mageia started as a fork of Madriva in 2010 by former employees and contributors of the commercial Madriva S.A. It is considered as a French distribution, but actually it is a worldwide community based on a non-profit organization, so the “French” term isn’t quite right, but it has French origins.
Mageia 2 released on May 2012 and it is now considered as a totally independent Linux Desktop distribution. Next version (aka Mageia 3), is releasing in March 2013 and that gives a 9month release cycle, without being clearly clarified, Mageia has a 18month support for each release.
It uses RPM as package manager and urpmi (rpmdrake) as update method. Of course it comes both with Gnome and KDE.
Mageia isn’t like Fedora. Mageia isn’t like Arch or Gentoo. Mageia is more closely to OpenSUSE and Ubuntu. It is not easy to explain why I place Mageia inside these two Distros. Mageia is a nice mix of community work that targets to business. Mageia doesn’t have the background and the huge infrastructure of OpenSUSE but I think that it is a better product. Mageia doesn’t have the dynamic and the support of Ubuntu, but is a community product. And this is a big plus over Ubuntu.
Mageia isn’t a small distro. It runs a large momentum right now and it is qualified to be the next big thing in Linux Desktop after Ubuntu. In Distrowatch is placed third after Mint and Ubuntu but it is a matter of days to overcome Canonical’s product. Of course that doesn’t mean that Mageia is more popular than Ubuntu, but never the less it shows something :)
Mageia Foundation doesn’t ship a commercial support but you can find some 3rd party vendors. Of course there is plenty of community support and documentation which are nicely organized and easy discover-able. IRC is quite active and you’ll get answers in seconds. At least that happened in my case. Mageia also runs in 167 languages so most probably you won’t face any issue on that. Their page is also translated in 25 languages, and that shows with no doubts the huge community, even for a such young project.
Mageia and Gnome
Mageia is probably the most Gnomish distro. Look at it. It has Gnome icons by default and Web is their main browser! Fedora doesn’t even have the Gnome browser installed out of the box. Also is one of the four major distros that ships systemd. Speaking of browsers Mageia also features the Firefox ESR which is the Extended Support Release of FF (version 10!). By the way this is Gnome 3.4.
And this is the Control Center of Mageia. Naah I am not going to show you all the possibilities of it (too many, from hardware to software!), but I can tell you that is a complete and easy to use tool. It is called Mageia Control Center, but if you search for it in overview as Control or Center you won’t find it. You have to look for it as Mageia. The other weird thing is that looking for “Contr” will show it, while looking for “Contro” doesn’t.
I say this to warn you that Mageia isn’t a perfect product. There are some annoying things. Other than this.
On default Repolists you can check for non-free software. But you can also check for Tainted software. Tainted is basically the software that has various copyright restrictions in some countries. That affects mostly some DVD/Media encoders. By the way Mageia’s country, France, has very flexible copyright laws.
I checked all the testing and backports Repos, but I still didn’t get many updates. It looks like the Debian that targets to stability. The fact is that you won’t find the latest updates of some applications. I guess you have to check for extra repos or in their official pages. However there are plenty of Apps.
This is the Office Suite in Mageia’s CD (not DVD) edition. I really don’t have a clue what’s that, but it seems that is an Open Online Documents Service sponsored by European Union. You can check more about it at their official page and documentation. Of course you can use Libre Office or whatever other suite you want.
Nowadays all Distros seem to be good and they are good enough. Some are better some worse, but in each and every release of them overall things getting better. None can really recommend a distro for your desktop environment. Is totally up to you. However before you pick something, you certainly have to give Mageia a try!
If Mageia would follow the release cycle of Gnome, I could easily call it the best Gnome distro, but it doesn’t. Still is one of the best Gnome distros.