Personally and based on my experience(Corporate world), use Unity on Ubuntu. That is a simple answer and a simple solution to the dilemma of what Linux desktop shell to use for a beginner. I have returned to GNOME. I tried to figure out why such an experienced team would go around making such drastic changes to something that just worked beautifully. I think I now understand what they are after. In about a year from now, touchscreens will be quite common. Presently Android and Windows 8 are the only mainstream OS that can be used on touchscreen devices (iOS is not an alternative unless you wish to lock yourself to an Apple device).
Android has simply done away with the traditional windowing system which in my opinion is oversimplying things. Windows 8 supports the Metro UI for touch and the traditional desktop for mouse/keyboard use. So authors on Win 8 will need to support two separate UIs. Neither of these make sense to me. Why throw away the traditional windowing UI just because we have a new input device? So… I think GNOME is on the right track. Larger window decorations, touch friendly desktop, the activities screen… are a good compromise between touch UI and traditional windows. I’m sure they’ll eventually win a lot of people over on their side. Nice to see that they didn’t wait for touchscreens to become common place before they acted on this. All the best to them. (It looks like Linus has also come back to GNOME…)