It's likely that the Mac OS X Finder will go "3D" at some point in the near future. Perhaps in Mac OS X 10.7 or 10.8.
Last year an Apple patent (number 20080307360) appeared at the US Patent & Trademark Office is any indication. The patent is for a multi-dimensional desktop.
According to Apple it involves a graphical user interface with a back surface disposed from viewing surface to define a depth, and one or more one or more side surfaces extend from the back surface to the viewing surface. An icon receptacle is disposed on one or more of the side surfaces, and one or more icons are disposed within the icon receptacle. The one or more icons correspond to one or more desktop items.
Here's Apple's background and summary of the invention: "A graphical user interface allows a large number of graphical objects or items to be displayed on a display screen at the same time. Leading personal computer operating systems, such as the Apple Mac OS, provide user interfaces in which a number of visualizations of system objects can be displayed according to the needs of the user. Example system objects include system functions, alerts, windows, peripherals, files, and applications. Taskbars, menus, virtual buttons, a mouse, a keyboard, and other user interface elements provide mechanisms for accessing and/or activating the system objects corresponding to the displayed representations.
"The graphical objects and access to the corresponding system objects and related functions, however, should be presented in a manner that facilitates an intuitive user experience. The use of metaphors that represent concrete, familiar ideas facilitate such an intuitive user experience. For example, the metaphor of file folders can be used for storing documents; the metaphor of a file cabinet can be used for storing information on a hard disk; and the metaphor of the desktop can be used for an operating system interface.
"As the capabilities of processing devices progress, however, so do the demands on the graphical user interface to convey information to the users in an intuitive manner.
"Disclosed herein are systems, apparatus and methods, including a multidimensional desktop graphical user interface. In one implementation, a graphical user interface includes a back surface that is axially disposed from a viewing surface, and one or more side surfaces that are extended from the back surface to the viewing surface. A visualization object receptacle, e.g., icon receptacle, is displayed on one or more of the side surfaces, and one or more visualization objects, e.g., icons corresponding to one or more system objects can be displayed within the icon receptacle.
"In another implementation, a two-dimensional, desktop can be depth-transitioned from a viewing surface to a back surface, and one or more side surfaces can be extended from the back surface to the viewing surface. A visualization object receptacle, e.g., icon receptacle on the one or more side surfaces can be generated. One or more visualization objects, e.g., icons corresponding to the desktop items can likewise be generated within the icon receptacle.
"In another implementation, a graphical user interface includes a viewing surface and a back surface axially disposed from the viewing surface to define a depth. One or more side surfaces can extend from the back surface to the viewing surface, and a visualization object receptacle can be disposed on one or more of the side surfaces. One or more visualization objects corresponding to the desktop items can likewise be disposed within the icon receptacle."
So when can we expect such an interface? I'm saying it will be with Mac OS X 10.8 in 2012. I think we'll see Mac OS X 10.7 in 2011 -- and that it will include elements of iOS.
-- Dennis Sellers