Wired has posted an article concerning a recent shift in UI design. Most of the UI's that are designed for devices nowadays are flat. The 3D effect, shadows, and gradients that used to commonplace in most of the UI's beforehand have now disappeared for a cleaner minimalist design.
They cite a couple of reasons for this shift. The first reason is that as screens get smaller, the minimalist approach allows you to do more with less screen real estate. I'm not sure sure I agree that screens are getting smaller, but I do agree with the logic that the less cluttered a UI is, the more information you are able to display.
The second reason the article gives is that because of the wide adoption of portable devices, the need for extra information in the design of the UI is no longer needed as a majority of users are now familiar with these types of devices, and therefore can navigate them without a bunch of guidance through the UI. This actually makes a lot of sense to me. As we become more and more accustomed to what a device can do, we tend to move towards functionality as opposed to look in terms of rating a device a success. If the device can do what we want it to do, well then we are going to be happy with that device.
That doesn't mean that a devices UI can be a mess. People will still want things to look nice. They just won't be clamoring for over the top effects to get to the information that they want. I wonder if summer blockbusters will ever take the same approach?