I posted the following in response to this thread, it’s primarily “desktop design” focussed but I wanted to post it here. This decision may or may not have something to do with the fact I’m still “stuck” and too busy to come up with anything original. Sorry.
Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. My interpretation of minimalism requires that functionality is not lost and that my desktop works the way I work. To others that may mean a few icons or none, a dock or accessbar, and so on.
Is Firefox popular because – “out of the box”- it’s minimal already, not bloated with lots of features you might not need? How many features of Word do you use everyday, and how many are there you don’t even know about? As Moore’s law pushes us onwards, (some) software companies take advantage of improved performance by offering us more.
Then you look at Web 2.0 apps (37signals stuff for example). Simple, small, function-lite apps that do one thing well. This approach is becoming increasingly popular.
Minimalism shouldn’t compromise functionality, it should enhance it. Instead of 23 icons on my desktop, causing me to pause when looking for one, I have 4, much easier to find. The choice of which 4 icons is part of “design of minimalism” as well, if I choose the wrong 4 icons then my functionality is impacted.
Another way to look at it is this: how often do you “workaround” an issue with your computer. A minor annoyance that you “put up with”. You may spend 2 secs having to open a folder to access a program, rather than getting straight to the program… add that up and you spend a lot of time going around something. Minimalism would suggest you just move the program out of the folder. Not necessarily LESS icons, but certainly faster.
Each to their own of course, what is minimal to me, may be overkill for you.