Mac OS, arguably the world’s most user friendly operating system, has long been regarded as the final word on design and ease-of-use. One of its best features was the dock and it very quickly became an identifying feature of Apple systems as a whole.
Apple has now won a patent for this dock. This patent can have a lot of impact in the future design of user interfaces in operating systems. There are existing software like Object Dock and Rocket Dock that lets a user have a Mac OS like dock on Windows based operating systems. The recently released KDE 4 platform offers plasmoids that look and behave like the Mac OS docks. Also, very recently, Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth said that his company is putting in more effort on the GUI aspect of Ubuntu to make it more like the Mac OS. Chances are high that such an effort would also involve developing a dock for Ubuntu.
The question is would all these attempts and implementations be in violation of this patent? If so future UI development efforts would need to make a shift in their design paradigms. A bigger question is how would Apple deal with such potential violators? In a nutshell, this patent can have grave ramifications on the future of desktop computing.