Around the Web: X Window Revisited
X Window, X11 or "X," as it is known for short, provides the programming framework and the underlying runtime system for most Unix and Linux-based network-transparent windowing implementations. It runs on a huge number of Linux and Unix flavors, including Mac OS X and with a bit of help, on several Windows varieties. Without X11 , there is no KDE, no GNOME, and no Linux-based window manager, unless one is prepared to accept an X replacement. They do exist, and many carry a proprietary license, while X comes with a GPL-compatible license.
Many Linux and Unix desktops and window managers should actually be called X Desktops, since they use the X Window framework to provide users with a full, bitmapped system GUI. Still, most Linux and Unix users would not actually see X Window directly, except when they run X applications, like the xterm and rxvt terminals or some fairly basic games. On its own, X Window requires, but does not provide software to manage and display flexible GUI elements, e.g., windows. It provides the primitives to display them, however, including the ability to draw graphical elements and, of course, strings of characters.