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How the iPhone touches on the failure of 3D

I'm finally getting to work seriously on something that will likely see the light of day on Apple's App Store. I generally prefer to work directly with corporate clients doing internal development for their own use, but doing that is not something you can really point to as evidence of your skills. Having even a mediocre entry in the App Store will likely be treated more favorably in interviews than being limited to saying "My work at X is covered by corporate confidentially agreements and cannot be disclosed." That's why I've done throwaway things for the Mac like screen savers, and I probably should have resigned myself to doing the same for the iPhone long ago.

"Ah, Impossibly Stupid," you might be saying, "based on the title of your post, I bet it's a 3D game you're working on!" And you'd be mostly wrong. It is going to be a game (of sorts), but not 3D or really even 2D. Think more along the lines of a cross between a financial market simulation and a fun social network. Sounds unlikely, I know, but I'm sure I'll find time to post some details as work progresses over the next couple months.

So what am I getting at . . . so . . . very . . . slowly? Just this simple observation: Especially when it comes to the iPad, Apple did a serious revamp of AppKit to support touch devices. I've done development with the base technology since before Cocoa was Cocoa, all the way back to when NeXT was Steve Job's pet company. As much of an update it got when it successfully morphed into being the Mac, it's nothing compared to how it was successfully shifted to mobile devices.

. . . and? I understand your impatience to get to the glitzy 3D aspect, but I hope you'll understand why I haven't moved quickly in that direction. You see, touch interfaces aren't something Apple did first. Their quickest entry was the Newton, which was essentially a failure despite being quite innovative. Other players in the market have also come and gone over the years and been failures as well. Most of their failures were of an uninteresting sort, in that they were essentially desktop metaphors that replaced the mouse with a stylus.

Do you see where I've been leading you? Over the years a lot of people have tried to push 3D interfaces for computers as well, and they've all been failures, too. My assertion here is that the main reason 3D hasn't taken off, despite the use of 3D accelerators even on mobile devices, is because nobody has really developed user interface conventions that work for 3D. Everyone seems to try to co-opt what is done in 2D desktops (wasting the space of the extra dimension) or what is done in 3D games (wasting the time of the extra dimension).

There doesn't appear to be any kind of true 3D metaphor that makes things easier for users overall. Touch done right gave us flicks and pinches and all sorts of other ways to interact with our computers that make us go "Of course!" 3D needs the same, because nobody wants to virtually run down a long hallway to open up a Documents door. Something is needed that is both radical and yet inherently obvious to every single one of us that lives in a 3D world. I'd love to work on that kind of project. I'd even do so for relatively cheap.