Interfaces change with the same co-evolutionary rhythms that ecosystems do: introduce a new species (or a new trait within an existing species) and a whole series of lateral effects unfold in other organisms, most of them difficult to predict in advance. I've been noticing one of those transformations over the past week, ever since I installed OS X Panther, and started messing around with Exposé, the highly-touted window management tool that I first raved about many months ago here.
Exposé's every bit as powerful as it promised to be (although I think Kottke has some smart ideas about making it even more powerful.) But what has surprised me in using it is that it has come very close to eliminating my need for the Dock (OS X's all purpose utility for storing icons representing open or frequently used applications, along with collapsed document windows and other basic functions.) I've always been a defender of the Dock -- for some reason, a number of interface experts find it offensive -- and have relied on it constantly ever since I moved to OS X. But Exposé (and Panther's command-tab application switching) has made it increasingly superfluous.
Because Exposé does such a brilliant job dealing with clutter, I no longer need to collapse windows into the Dock to keep things better organized; I get a much better "big picture" view of what's open right now by hitting f9 and seeing all my windows than I do by looking at the dock; I can switch applications more readily through the keyboard by hitting command-tab. I've long included the desktop as an icon in my dock, so I could get to it quickly without closing a ton of windows, but Exposé now lets me do that with by hitting f11. The only thing that the Dock still provides is access to the trash can and application launching, both of which you can do through keystrokes in any Finder window, although it's not quite as easy.
I'm not entirely ready to turn off the Dock altogether, mostly for sentimental reasons. (It's such a signature OS X element.) But I'm thinking about it. I wonder if the Dock and Exposé teams at Apple realized that the two tools would be in competition with each other. Or perhaps it's just me...