The Mandriva 2011 Alpha 1 release carries the Linux 2.6.37 kernel, RPM 5.3.8, NetworkManager 0.8.2, KDE Software Compilation 4.6.0, GNOME 2.32.1, Xfce 4.8.0, GCC 4.5.2, Chromium browser, Firefox 4 Beta 11, Wine 1.3.13, and many other updated applications.
Besides Mandriva 2011 Alpha 1 updating the package stack, this first alpha release switches to using systemd by default, Nepomuk and the KDE Social Desktop are activated by default, the same ISO media can now be used for Live support and installation images, and various other improvements.
The Mandriva 2011 Alpha 1 release announcement can be found on the Mandriva blog.
The first ISO spin of Mageia making it at Alpha 1 is code-named Cantine. Current Mandriva users are also capable of upgrading to Mageia Alpha 1 from Mandriva 2010.2 installations, thanks to its close heritage. "This is the very first alpha release of Mageia and a kind of preview of it. This is the result of 2 months of hard work, setting up the Build System and cleaning packages and softwares, as explained in this blog post. That’s why you will not find all your favourite applications available (yet :) ). Packages are imported one by one and progressively after some cleaning. That’s also why you may find some part of the system quite rough, or not as pretty as expected. The new design is not fully integrated yet and we have many temporary images and icons that will be replaced in the coming weeks for the final release. The Artwork team is working hard on it, and already produced a significant part of the work as you can see in the installer and the graphical boot theme."
So there isn't anything too unique to see with Mageia Alpha 1 but that they have their package repositories ready, their own build system is running, packages are being created, the distribution is being bootstrapped, the ISOs are working, and there is a working basic operating system.
The Magiea team hopes to put out a stable release on the 1st of June while there will be another alpha release in mid-March before the betas commence in April and a release candidate in May. Find more in the Mageia release announcement.