Necessity is the mother of invention. Iambic pentameter, the three second rule: constraints lead to improvisation. You need a wall to have a “breakthrough.”
The size constraints of the mobile web device (née “smart phone”) are having an interesting effect on computer interface design, whereby to be effective, the interface has to be handy, literally.
Our hands – historically, our thumbs especially – are our most important tool: the primary means* by which we manipulate our world. The keyboard was a breakthrough in the evolution of culture because it allowed humans to easily manipulate the written word.
Technologies like Cover Flow, that merge the display of information with the handling of information, are a similar breakthrough.
Manipulating images with gestures in order to enact changes in the physical world may not be intellectual “progress” but it might be a more accessible intellectual process for the many who are not entirely comfortable in the esoteric practice of literary thinking – i.e., thinking through written words.
*Our mouths are probably more important but I don’t want to drift into speculation.