I don't think it's true that if Gnome followed the aforementioned path that it couldn't also create a new desktop. In fact, if you know that your users are productivity based that gives you an interesting direction to work towards with the goal being either an extremely efficient workflow, or a very efficient workflow that requires "no" thought.
Knowing that you don't need to cater to "consumers" could really open up all kinds of interesting environments.
This idea must be part of some zeitgeist since I've been thinking the same thing ever since I'd heard about creatives being dissatisfied with the new Apple. This could be a genuine niche if someone with both vision and charisma were to emerge.