Apparently, the “wow” has been delayed until October

Well, I can predict one of the surprises that will be in Leopard based on this patent filing and a bunch of similar, related patents.

Apple is going to offer procedural desktop pictures (essentually GPU pixel shader programs) that produce pretty animated abstract or image-processed desktop pictures. These will be gorgeous, stylish, and have the following virtues:

  • Unlike desktop pictures, they won’t take up memory in either system or video — beyond the images they use. Since many of the options will be purely abstract (think of iTunes visualizations or Motion samples) this will be a significant chunk of RAM freed up.
  • Unlike desktop pictures, these can be procedurally animated for free (essentially accessing a static pixel and accessing a computed pixel are pretty much identical operations for modern GPUs).

Just look at the kinds of things Motion does effortlessly and you can be sure this stuff will be gorgeous (quite possibly distractingly so) and make Windows Vista look like the pathetic, obsolete hunk of junk it is, but which its “me too Aqua” graphical wrapper partially conceals.

Incidentally, animated window frames could be done exactly the same way.