wounded in the line of duty
I agree, but this is changing since a few releases for RHEL/CentOS. From the changes in RHEL 5.2 and 5.3 you can see that Red Hat spends a reasonable amount of energy in backporting infrastructure that is not server-oriented (wireless drivers, X drivers, power management, ...) but they also backport support for chipsets, storage drivers, etc, which are needed for servers too.
Since more and more companies are willing to pay Red Hat for desktop related features (eg. Cisco was involved with the wireless infrastructure backport in RHEL4 to support their laptops), Red Hat sees a business case in adding more support. And we all benefit from that on the desktop too.
It does require one to choose its hardware based on what is supported (which is something enterprise do anyhow), but consumers are less informed and that offers a challenge. (The CentOS wiki has a list of supported laptops for this purpose, more help is appreciated)
I am optimistic for the future though thanks to the kernel interface needing less and less change which already makes it easier to backport drivers. The same is true for Xorg and other hardware related software components. We have seen a lot of new development in the past few years that focused heavily on the desktop experience (and the required infrastructure for that) of which we can reap the benefits in the future.
I am excited for what is coming with CentOS-6 in that respect.
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