Google Maps style UX comes to Leopard

At the WWDC last summer, Steve Jobs made a big deal about how he was keeping a few features in the next release of OS X (Leopard) secret because he didn’t want the folks in Redmond (ahem) to “start their photocopiers too early”. Although the whole photocopiers angle is an obvious jab (and not even plausibly realistic) I do think there are some interesting features that still haven’t been announced in Leopard.  There’s been a fair bit of speculation as to what Steve Jobs still has up his sleeves, but to my eye, nobody has quite nailed it.

I think the well known work to make OS X resolution independent will be applied to creating a “google maps style” interface for the desktop UX. Imagine a desktop that is a variable number of pixels across. Dragging a window so that it sits partially offscreen causes the viewport to smoothly zoom out and everything is visible, just scaled down. In this context, Expose is just a zoom out, instead of tiling programs in a flat grid with no relation to how they were laid out on screen. Naturally you can zoom in too or do the google-eque “drag” which is really just panning the viewport across a large area.

What’s my reasoning?

  • It just makes sense as a feature. You’ve always got more stuff running than you can deal with. It is much more natural and makes a hell of a lot more sense than multiple desktops, spinning cubes or Flip 3D
  • This feature doesn’t affect developers lives at all. They don’t even need to know about it so keeping it secret is possible.
  • It is indeed difficult for others to copy. Nobody else has done the resolution independence work that Apple has. (512*512 icons? Wow.)
  • It can have some super snazzy sounding name which Jobs loves so much. Time Travel?

I’ve read a fair number of the Apple blogs and haven’t seen this prediction anywhere else, but I’m not a regular so it’s possible I’ve missed something obvious. Personally I’m going to be shelling down for a new Vista laptop with a snazzy SideShow display, but I’m definitely pretty impressed by the Apple stuff.