Apple Design Innovation Software & Hardware Technology Usability

Apple desktop to become an art canvas?

Sometimes, high-end software engineering is like high art – it’s not always easy to appreciate what the eye of the ‘artist’ sees.

And so it is that a patent filing by Apple Inc. sort of bends my head in different directions as I try to find some actual, meaningful application for the proposed ‘active desktop’ feature:

“’Since the desktop picture can be computed very quickly using a GPU, it may be made to move on demand, … This includes movement, for example, when logging in, logging out, and transitioning to and from a screen saver, providing a seamless experience. It can also include slow movement, such as seen when a soft tree shadow is cast, with the gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze, or slow movement over time, or concerted movement to mark the passing of time (e.g., a noticeable change to pattern or color every hour.)’”

If it’s simply about visual feedback, of say, time passing, then it’s an idea with legs, which could run, you know?

But is that enough? Do I really want the sun rising and setting on my desktop to denote the passing of time?

Does that kind of thing really matter?

Would I or anyone else sit their whimsically staring into a fictional landscape in between bouts of work?

“Aside from the time of the day, a variety of other types of events may be used to effect a change to the desktop picture. ‘For example, … the desktop picture may change upon a user event, such as launching a predetermined application. For instance, a particular desktop picture may be computed when the application iTunes.RTM. is launched; a different desktop picture may be computed when the application QuickTime.RTM. Player is launched.’”

This sort of sounds utilitarian, doesn’t it?

What’s more, I start to think about Adobe Apollo or Apple Dashboard applications ’embedded’ into the desktop.

Small, discrete applications that relate contextually to larger, more purposeful applications.

So if you’re in iChat, for example, what about you IM (Instant Messaging) window overlaying a full-screen video conference running as the desktop?

Or, if you’re in iTunes, your desktop becomes the Visualizer?

And if you’re watching a movie trailer in either QuickTime or iTunes, what about a widget that pulls down movie info from iMDB?

Or what about being in Safari looking through your LinkedIn profile, and a Skype widget tells you which LinkedIn contacts are currently on-line?

“Apple also hinted at an editing tool that could allow desktop picture designers to edit and specify the user experience…”

More is said, but it’s quite floral and not very specific, or utilitarian.

And this kind of thing isn’t new for Apple, either. I remember some presentation of a technology from Apple that had a desktop that depicted a pool of water that rippled out from wherever the mouse was clicked.

But what often puts clear blue water between Apple and the other guys is the implementation of the idea, not just the idea itself…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

2 replies on “Apple desktop to become an art canvas?”

Oooooh, I love this! While I agree that such a thing would add more value if it had some use, I also think that some things are meant to just be pretty… Hey! How about a combination of the two? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see… Caro.

Hi Carolina!

There are some very slick transitions in Mac OS X that some would / could argue are superfluous.

For me, if they’re quick enough, make sense and don’t hog performance, I don’t really mind.

Whether such visual friffery will ever get past Steve Jobs is another matter entirely…

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