Removing the Unnecessary, a Followup
In my article about Apple’s removal of sleep indicator lights from their machines, I wrote:
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.
It occurred to me that it’s not just the indicator lights on the physical hardware that Apple has removed; OS X Lion also includes an option to hide the indicator lights for running applications in the Dock (though they’re still toggled on by default).
Much like how it shouldn’t matter whether your computer is “booting up” or “waking from sleep” – it should just be ready – it also shouldn’t matter whether you’re “launching” an application or “switching” to it. This is already the case on iOS, and Apple is in the process of bringing the same concept to the Mac as well: proper OS X Lion applications restore their state upon relaunch, erasing the distinction between whether an app is already “running” or not (and thus making the indicator lights unnecessary).
The difference with the Mac is that the process takes much longer because all pre-existing applications have to be brought up to date; iOS had the advantage of being a brand new system, so it could be designed like this from the start. Since OS X isn’t quite there yet, Apple took the pragmatic approach of making the indicator lights optional, rather than removing them entirely before all (or at least most) Mac apps supported auto-restore.
There’s no doubt in my mind, though, that the indicator lights will disappear for good one day – and we’ll find it amusing that we not only used to keep track of which apps were running, but had to manually (!) quit the ones we were done with!