Removing the Unnecessary

by jscariati

Ben Brooks has a great theory about why indicator lights have been gradually disappearing from Apple’s products:

I think removing lit indicators is Apple’s way of saying: stop worrying about the state the device is in and start using it.

Definitely. Apple is striving for an ideal where “state” doesn’t matter at all. They’re effectively already there with their mobile devices, and are in the process of getting there with their PCs.

If you think about it, what’s the purpose of indicating a “state,” anyway? It’s to let you, the user, know that certain actions or tasks have to be performed in a different way – or maybe can’t be performed at all – because of the nature of the state that the system is in.

Mac laptops have traditionally had a sleep indicator light to inform you that you can simply flip the lid open to start working, as opposed to sitting through a lengthy boot process when the machine is fully turned off. Nowadays, that distinction doesn’t matter: SSDs cut boot times down to mere seconds, and OS X Lion automatically restores whatever apps and windows you had open before you last shut down.

So what difference does it make to you whether the computer is technically “booting” or “waking from sleep”? That distinction has been reduced to a mere implementation detail that no longer affects how you actually use your machine, and thus the sleep indicator light has become unnecessary.

Removing the overhead of technical implementation details in order to improve the user experience: that’s been Apple’s mission since the beginning.