Apple’s New Animation Framework

Although we try our best to be impartial when it comes down to OS wars, and we have, throughout the years, presented the pros and cons of Windows, Linux, and other operating systems, you’ve probably noticed that NeoSmart Technologies isn’t too big on Apple. Well, color us purple, but this we have to talk about.

Apple [[AAPL]] has a new technology due to ship in Leopard that is pretty damn impressive to hear some of the developers (or at least those at liberty to discuss what they’ve been told) talk about it. According to this Wired News article, this framework will focus on making it easy for developers to add Next (Delicious) Generation graphics to their applications, bringing the concept of UI to a whole new playing field.

While it sounds just plain awesome, we can’t help but look at it with mixed feelings. Since this is Apple and not Microsoft we’re talking about, we’re pretty darn sure everything they say can and will be found in the RTM release of OS X Leopard *cough* WinFS *cough*, but whether or not it will revolutionize the concept of user interfaces everywhere remains to be seen.

Granted, the effects are supposed to be astounding. But that’s not the question, next-gen UIs (hereby dubbed “Desktop 2.0”) are almost always a matter of how and not what. As the Wired article states, these same “amazing” graphical innovations with the UI do already exist in certain programs (like Disco, the CD burning utility for OS X), the only difference is, Apple promises to make it much easier to get the same end results.

Is this just another RIA framework like XAML or Flex/Apollo? Well, it’s a framework, no doubt about that. Anyone remember the mock-ups and sample programs released when XAML was still in beta (and before the blasphemous change in nomenclature from WinFX to .NET 3.0)? Those were damn impressive, much better than some of the effects in Disco and other programs that Apple is pointing at. But look around you, and you’ll notice that no one is coding these “amazing next-gen” interfaces anymore. Why? That’s easy: they’re too insanely difficult to create!

XAML + .NET is an amazingly powerful combination. But where .NET in general is classified as being a pretty decent RAD (Rapid Application Deployment) language/framework, XAML most certainly isn’t. With XAML, it takes days of work to get things to look just right. That’s why we still have a rectangle, a bunch of controls thrown onto it (whether MFC/Win32 or .NET), and standard boring-yet-gets-the-job-done interfaces all over the place.

But Apple is notoriously famous for making things easy… for users at any rate. The best thing we can say is, they certainly keep their word, especially when it revolves around APIs, new technologies, and software vendors (yet the obviously-incorrect Developers, Developers, Developers still comes to mind!). This is certainly something to keep your eyes peeled for and your ears wide open, because if what Apple says is true and they can really deliver awesome animations in an easy-to-implement API, then “Delicious Generation” may very well be the next big thing and the gateway to Desktop 2.0!

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