Ubuntu's Mark Shuttleworth posted an entry to his blog in which he states that software needs to be beautiful and functional in order to be really successful, to be embraced by the world.
What a fascinating thought. Not exactly new, but it's rare that an widely listened to leader in the open source world states it that bluntly. The current success of Apple should have made this obvious to most people, but it clearly isn't. Certainly most open source hackers couldn't care less about the look, feel, and usability of their software, as long as it is good code.
Maybe Mark is on to something even more fundamental. Beauty means different things to different people. And for the true software developer, maybe beauty means well architected and easy to maintain code. And therefore that's the beauty they aim for. So a lot of people in the open source community are already aiming for beautiful software. Only the audience that understands that form of beauty is rather small (would that be a good description of the early community of Linux kernel hackers, for example?)
So what's the conclusion? To me it's that we need both, and that we need to get the people together that can provide both. Beautiful code (as in "software that works") and beautiful look and feel (as in "Steve Jobs will want to copy it in the next version of Mac OS").
Ubuntu certainly trys to go in the right direction of making Linux beautiful. But as a person who uses Mac OS Tiger as his main desktop OS for day to day work I have to say that even Ubuntu has some ways to go.