Apple Spotlight Patents Hinting at Leopard?

Hrmpf and Appleinsider are posting images from Apple's recent patent applications surrounding their Spotlight search technology.

The images show different versions of Finder/Spotlight than what has shipped with Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). Both sites speculate that these may be signs of the interface to come in the next version of Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). Alternatively, they may simply be iterations of Spotlight development that were discarded.

Nested Smart Folders are described in one patent application, extending Smart Folder functionality:

Basically, you create a Smart Folder (say Files modified last week) and then you can create more smart folders within the original folder (like Kind = images) and then create more folders within that subfolder (like Aperture = f7).

One of the most ambitious features is a process to automatically generate Secondary Meta-data for file searches. Apple proposes the use of semantic analysis and even Optical Character Recognition to extract data from photos (Algorithm picture):

This [metadata] is great but its not really accessible - what you really want to know is this the picture I took as a closeup that night? This metdata wont tell you that but what if your computer processed this metadata and added new metadata that better described the photograph (nighttime, closeup and the text from any signs in the photo etc).

Meanwhile, audio analysis of audio files could generate more information about your MP3/AACs. Beyond the usual metadata extraction, Mac OS X could also perform an actual analysis of the songs:

For example .... a frequency analysis (e.g., using spectrum analysis/filtering techniques) may be performed to determine the type of the music (e.g., Jazz or classical), and other audio related information.

Few actual details about Leopard have been revealed. Apple has previous stated that they will be demonstrating Leopard at WWDC -- which takes place in August 2006.

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