Yes, it is the thing everybody has expected in 8.10 ever since Ubuntu announced "We're pushing back the theme redesign to Intrepid. We have too much things on our hands for 8.04 Hardy right now." and everyone groaned "NOOOOO! We're stuck with that lame Human theme again! @$&*#!!!!!"
However, Ubuntu is not going to disappoint its fans again, because this time, it did change the theme: to NewHuman, a dark variant of Human. Apparently this was again met with flames from everyone who's tested Alpha 1 to 3 to everyone who's seen screenshots of it, calling it names and throwing sticks at it.
Here is a screenshot of the plain Live CD desktop Alpha 1-3, provided by Softpedia:
I disagree. If one has ever actually tried the NewHuman, he/she would find that its colors are smooth and easy on the eyes. If he/she has ever themed, (or heard the tale of somebody theme,) he/she'll know that it's very hard to come up with a pleasing, dark theme that's easy on the eyes. It really is.
I'm not sure if Ubuntu heard the public outcry that came with Alphas 1 to 3, or if it was just a bug that forced users to do so, but if you got your hands on Alpha 4 and tried booting from it, you got a horribly messed up theme and a notification popped up saying "The Human theme is not installed." But if you checked System → Preferences → Appearance, you would see that NewHuman, Human, Human-Clearlooks, Human-Murrine, etc. were all there. It's just that if you tried selecting Human, it wouldn't work, but all other themes would. Either this was a mistake and developers switched back to Human, or it was switched back to Human-Murrine and something went wrong.
Here is another Live CD desktop screenshot Alpha 4-Alpha 6, again provided by Softpedia:
Alpha 6 has passed, and the Beta has come and gone. But no theme redesign. I am curious as to what's going on in the Ministry of Ubuntu Artwork (miniubuart in Newspeak) that this is happening. Normally, if Ubuntu can't do something it promises, it lets its fans know beforehand. But no news whatsoever with the artwork has come out. What I'm thinking is Mr.Shuttleworth is planning a theme redesign so grand that not even the developers know of it. That's why the crappy wallpaper got in. The day before the release, Mr.Shuttleworth will bring to the devs a whole new theme, and the devs will be pissed that they had tried to make a new theme when there already had been one, made by professional designers that Mr.Shuttleworth hired. Then people will praise Ubuntu and so again until 9.04. But so are my hopes.
Finally, the 8.10 Beta Live CD desktop, again provided by Softpedia:
After Beta, there is still more news. First, a new wallpaper. Next, Human theme gone. Human-Murrine renamed to Human. Goodbye Human! Then, gtk2-engines-ubuntulooks no longer supported. NewHuman theme (see first screenshot in this post) renamed to DarkRoom. Gay. Then, a new panel picture custom-made by a developer. That's it for now.
The above-mentioned custom-made panel image makes its appearance in the release candidate of Ubuntu 8.10. An empty LiveCD desktop is below, courtesy of Softpedia:
The new panel images are kind of weird. Not 3D, yet not flat. The background is nice though, now that it's finally wide and not square-ish.
Unknown: Well, we are into Alpha 5 and theme is still unchanged. I had my doubts.
Unknown: Didn't update this for a long time. See last few paragraphs.
10/24/08: New panel transparency, RC screenshot.