Wait a minute. Didn’t Apple executives diss the touchscreen PC experience just a few months ago? Yes. Just as Steve Jobs dissed various new technologies or expected technologies before implementing the very same functionality in Apple products at a later time. Smart executives, no matter how arrogant, know there’s a time to change course. Now is the time for Apple to change course and build a Mac with a touchscreen.
The latest trend among traditional personal computers, both Windows 10 and Chrome OS, is a touchscreen matched to a hybrid tablet-like notebook or desktop PC. I’m not saying it’s the best user interface, but it’s there and it has a purpose that has met with some measure of commercial success (which, as always, is defined three ways: 1) the TV commercials look great, and 2) technology critics and agents sing the praises, and 3) customers and users do what they want anyway.
Microsoft is the perfect example of why Apple needs to have a touchscreen Mac. And, if they’re going to do one, they might as well make it available on all Macs with screens. Microsoft’s big Surface Studio is a 28-inch touchscreen device attached to an anemic notebook PC case. Those who use it, love it. Microsoft’s Surface Book is a touchscreen notebook that compares favorably– in commercials and among critics– with the MacBook Pro line. The same can be said of other Windows 10 tablet-cum-notebooks with touchscreens, Microsoft or third party.
Questions? How many of those touchscreens get used as tablets? That’s not the point. How many of those touchscreens get used at all, even when in traditional PC mode? That’s not the point. The touchscreen is there because Microsoft needed a point of differentiation between Window 10 and Apple’s Mac and iPad line, which back a few years ago, were both on record setting runs through the PC industry.
That has changed. iPhone, iPad, and Mac sales are down while Microsoft’s touchscreen hardware sales are on the increase (grain of salt here because only Apple releases actual sales unit numbers; everything else is a guesstimate), and the only growth in the entire traditional PC industry these days is not desktops, it’s notebooks with touchscreens, most of which also double as tablets.
Touchscreens are here in the personal computer world as a standard, expected feature, and they are not going away.
Apple VP Phil Schiller:
We think of the whole platform. If we were to do Multi-Touch on the screen of the notebook, that wouldn’t be enough – then the desktop wouldn’t work that way.
I don’t know what that means. Microsoft put multi-touch and touchscreens onto PCs and in Windows 10, and while it’s not a perfect tablet experience, it’s not horrible, despite the tendinitis issue. Is touch not possible as a layer on macOS? Of course it is.
Can you imagine a 27-inch iMac where you have to reach over the air to try to touch and do things? That becomes absurd.
Microsoft did it. Other PC manufacturers are coming to market with desktop screens to take advantage of the touch capabilities built-in to Windows 10. Customers are beginning to expect touchscreens everywhere; whether they use them or not doesn’t matter. It’s an expectation. It’s table stakes. It’s like having millions of colors. We don’t need that many. We can’t see that many. But they better be there.
You can’t optimize for both. It’s the lowest common denominator thinking.
That’s executive bull hockey. Optimization is not the issue. Neither is lowest common denominator thinking. macOS could easily have enough touch functionality to make it usable and useful on a touchscreen Mac. No, not as exact or as intuitive as iOS on an iPad Pro screen, but again, usable and useful, built-in and available for those who want to use it. How does that approach differ from Touch Bar? We don’t need to use it, but it’s there, and it does what it does acceptably, but it’s not for everyone. It’s still a physical move that repetitive stress injury health care professionals would applaud.
Our instincts were that it didn’t, but, what the heck, we could be wrong-so our teams worked on that for a number of times over the years… We’ve absolutely come away with the belief that it isn’t the right thing to do. Our instincts were correct.
Yet the market says otherwise. Mac sales are going down while sales of Windows 10 PCs with touchscreens are going up.
This is marketing math. Touchscreens are everywhere, and they’re on personal computers now, too.
Remember, Steve Jobs’ instincts were to use web apps on the original iPhone and was certain the device did not need native applications (which developers were screaming to have). His instincts were wrong. Jobs had to be persuaded to allow native apps and that changed the entire smartphone and tablet industry.
The Mac needs a touchscreen. Not because it’s a great interface on a personal computer, but it’s now an expectation on a personal computer much the same as we expect a mouse or trackpad, a screen with millions of colors, or industry standard connectors (of various flavors, it seems). A touchscreen is a new standard of expectation for the personal computer industry, Apple. Deal with it.