Ubuntu 10.10 comes with OpenCL support. OpenCL is a language that allows to access the GPU and other parallel processors. That means that the graphics card’s shaders can be used from within any application. Multimedia or image processing applications like GIMP or GIMP plugins are perfect candidates for this optimisation that is often just called “hardware acceleration”.
If you decide to install the nvidia proprietary graphics card drivers (you can do this with a few clicks), CUDA (the Nvidia hardware acceleration API) and OpenCL support is installed too. [Information for ATI/fglx still needed, can you help? Please comment on the original page.]
That means that future GIMP plugins could be written in Python with OpenCL and hardware acceleration support, bringing incredible performance gains (1000 times faster and even more). I am glad and hopeful to see first applications or plugins that use this great new feature soon.