Charlie Stross and other journalists are theorizing that Apple is trail blazing a new world for computing. As Charlie puts it,
Steve Jobs believes he’s gambling Apple’s future… on an all-or-nothing push into a new market. HP have woken up and smelled the forest fire, two or three years late; Microsoft are mired in a tar pit, unable to grasp that the inferno heading towards them is going to burn down the entire ecosystem in which they exist.
If they are to be believed, the iPhone OS, also found on the iPod Touch and iPad (which Apple just announced the sale of the first millionth), represents a vision of the future of software and user interface design. The desktop metaphor is being replaced… by what?
I wouldn’t say there is a singular metaphor to replace the desktop. There is, however, a replacement theme. It’s a theme that we’ve been seeing in movies, like Minority Report and Avatar, for quite some time. It’s been echoed across everything from Microsoft’s Surface to Autodesk’s multi-touch wall. The theme is “direct manipulation.” As such, we are seeing a plethora of very literal visual metaphors, such as page flipping, spinners, and details taken from physical objects, right down to the stitching in the leather seams of the “pocket” in the Notes app and the stitched binding in the Contacts app on the iPad. Some of them are behavioral, while others are merely decorative, but they all speak to a very familiar, physical approach to interaction.