This blog posting is the first in a series. The full series as it currently stands is:
Surpassing Apple: Step One - Animate Everything
Surpassing Apple: Step Two - Get an Audience
Surpassing Apple: Step Three - Set a Tone
Surpassing Apple: Step Four - Vision and Desirability
Surpassing Apple: Step Five - Think Cinematic
Surpassing Apple: Step Six - Cultivate a Culture
Since Shuttleworth went out on a limb and challenged all of the Free Software zealots to surpass Apple, I thought I would chime in with some blog dribble. If he is serious about this pursuit, it is going to take him to let go of his rumored conservatism with animations. This isn't just for Mark though... it really should be a rallying call to every single individual with the care and means to change Free Software for the better. This isn't about meeting a goal, but rather surpassing it by an order of a magnitude.
Step One - Animate Everything
I mean it.
Every button, every progress bar, every menu, every icon hover over and click, and every other interface element we touch. Every individual element should be placed in the designer's hands to fully control the final presentation.
We should have the potential for gradual lighting glows on window decorations. Smooth transitions on a button as it changes depth into a recessed state. Binary radio boxes should smoothly flip from checked to unchecked. Icons might subtly come alive or augment their saturation over a number of frames. Menus might unfurl with a stylized flow as they reveal themselves. Selected items should gracefully fade up with pure elegance. Separations and divisions in windows should flow smoothly out of their frames and back again.
While it is true that library xxx or yyy might be able to do this, it is still not at the forefront of our design dilemmas. We should push ahead and provide a consistent framework to achieve transition effects and animations and ensure that every desktop ships with the capability by default. "Animate Everything" should become the de facto standard.
In short, we don't live our lives at one frame per second. Every singular moment we spend in Free Software should be the culmination of countless frames in our ultimate immersive experience.
Of course this could easily be abused to death -- stirring up gaudy and nasty themes from our past. With this power would come great responsibility. We could easily mishandle the power and end up with utterly useless window fire burns as seen in Compiz or the wacky anime-uber-tech themes we see for Fluxbox. Our role shouldn't be to worry about how 'ugly' or 'useless' something is but rather to provide the agency for design excellence. There will be many nasty results from the impact of 'Animate Everything', but, given a few individual creative power houses, we stand to push computing deeply into the realm of seamless experiences.
Ages ago I wrote a blueprint up on transitions that has since been lost in the dust of the past. The net goal was to drive our cumbersome and sticky interface into the realm of cinematic immersion. I firmly believe we are moving every aspect of our daily lives into the realm of the computer, and as such, the division between 'using a computer' and 'complete immersive experience' will become blurred with the desire for a more humanistic flair. Little did I know that a couple of years later everyone would be lusting for an iPhone in all of its merry transitioning glory. Had we taken notice earlier, perhaps we would have had a leg up on the iPhone and all of the transition heavy interfaces to follow.
Some of the 'old guard' are probably adamantly against this. If we expect to forge ahead however, the old guard will need to be trumped by the new thinkers. It will take teamwork and group thinking, but I firmly believe we can achieve it.
Thank you all for reading.
 There is a relatively stable rumor that Mark Shuttleworth is against animated progress bars in Ubuntu. I have heard this from several realible sources. As much as I can believe the rumor, I have no further grounding to offer as fact on this matter. As such, it is purely a rumor.