Interface is all that matters

The new MacBook Air with a promised all-day battery has finally arrived in Taiwan. I believe it is totally unfair that the home country of its manufacturer receives the goods one month later than the release date, but aside from that, I now have a 13-inch mobile workstation that keeps itself alive for a whole day on the road. Hopefully.

This is exactly how long it took to move my data from the previous 11-inch Air over to the new 13-inch version: 2 minutes. I installed Dropbox to the new MacBook Air, and that was it. I did not even drag my files. 95% of the setup was spent on installing various software onto the new machine (Microsoft is still one nasty beast who tries everything to break our spirit yet seeks every opportunity to suck our blood money. Go to hell.)

Now that my personal data exists outside of the aluminum vault (and will probably remain so), what exactly is this thing called “personal” computer for? Stripped to the bone, there are only three components that matter inside my new laptop. A keyboard/trackpad (to input), a screen (to output), and a battery (to keep them running). Today, a computer is essentially an assembly of interface: In and out, that is it.

The same thing goes for the software. I did not have to move my emails or Facebook lists or even my (digital) books. All I had to do was to log in to my account from my new laptop and everything was there, intact. There is no important information INSIDE the software anymore.

Whether it is a piece of hardware or software, the crucial part now is in the interface, where one micro-universe meets another. The user interface is where the differences are made, and as long as that part is left intact—or better, improved—it does not matter any more what standard, innovation, or even technology is adopted underneath.

The computer, both hardware and software, has truly become a commodity by not confining anything important for the user in itself. It is going back to its original mission, to compute. Nowadays we constantly upgrade not only our software but also our hardware.

Apple devices embody this philosophy of replaceable hardware despite being the most irreplaceable options available in the market. Pleasing to the eye but not intrusive, light to carry but lasts long, compact body yet large enough area for human organs (eyeballs and fingers), their devices exist for our body, not the other other way around.

The best way to make a product valuable is to make sure there is no value inside itself: that’s what the New MacBook Air is telling me, and it sounds almost zen (the late Jobs was a zen student). Everything lies in the interface, where the new and the old, the in and the out, the soft and the hard, the flesh and the metal meets one another.