Apple design chief Jony Ive rules out touchscreen Macs

Caitlin McGarry
1 November, 2016
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PC makers have fully embraced touchscreen laptops and desktops, but don’t expect Apple to head down that road.

Last week, the company introduced two MacBook Pros that feature slim OLED displays to replace the keyboard’s function keys. Apple launched its latest products just one day after Microsoft unveiled its massive Surface Studio desktop designed for creative professionals, a demographic once solidly in Apple territory. Why didn’t Apple go fully touchscreen with its new MacBooks? Is the Touch Bar an interim step, a sign that Apple is unsure of its footing?

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No. Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, told Cnet that Apple had decided “many, many years ago” that touchscreen Macs were not the right approach.

Why? Well, Ive didn’t really get into specifics (of course):

“When we were exploring multitouch many, many years ago, we were trying to understand the appropriate application and opportunities for [it]. We just didn’t feel that [the Mac] was the right place for that. It wasn’t particularly useful or an appropriate application of multitouch. It’s difficult to talk without going into a lot of details that puts me starting to talk about things that we are working on. I don’t really want to talk much more about it.”

Ive said the company develops prototypes that employees then live with for a while to see if the approach is a good one. Two years ago, Apple began developing larger trackpads with haptic input, then decided to combine a touch display with a mechanical keyboard.

But the Touch Bar “still just marks a beginning,” Ive said.

Ive used incredibly vague terms to avoid hinting at where Apple will take the Mac, but the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that the company is planning to swap out the mechanical keyboard for a Kindle-esque e-ink display. That huge change would come courtesy of e-ink keyboard creator Sonder Design, an Australian startup backed by Apple supplier Foxconn.

According to the WSJ, that new keyboard won’t make its way to the MacBook until 2018. And as for why Apple is more interested in putting touch in its MacBook keyboards than its MacBook screens, well, it’s unclear. We’re planning to take the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar for a spin (and put it through some rigorous testing) to see what it’s good for, so stay tuned.

3 Comments

3 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Jamie says:

    I personally find the haptic feedback touchpads awful to use and don’t even start me on the absolute flop that I think the MacBook keyboard was it feels terrible to type on.

    And keep in mind folks that this is the same company that said that there was no need for a stylus for their devices and then released one with much fanfare.

    For me Apple have lost what made them great for me simplicity of use and design and the ability to upgrade memory and storage – without this it’s game over for me.

    (I’m posting this from a PC that is the same age as my Mid 2012 MacBook Pro yet it runs Windows 10 splendidly while the MacBook has performance problems with macOS Sierra even though it’s been upgraded to 16GB of memory and a 256GB SSD)

  2. Macworld Australia Staff says:

    I’m nt a huge fan of the short travel keyboard. Haptic feedback works but it’s not a solution for every problem.

  3. John Wilkins says:

    Focus on the present and you miss the point that the future is always full of surprises.

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