15
Why Apple’s MacBook Touch Bar Was the Right Thing to Do

Matthew Panzarino:

People love a Greek tragedy. Icarus has flown too close to the sun and tumbled to Earth. Apple has forgotten its core users and been eclipsed by Microsoft. The Touch Bar is a compromise between adding a touch screen on a MacBook and ignoring touch entirely.

These narratives are easy to sketch because they sell better to readers than moderated, honest inspection of sentiment and behavior. If you have heroes and villains, then everything is a zero-sum game and nothing that competitors do can exist on their own merits.

The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar is the right thing to do because people don’t use touch screen laptops like they do tablets.

Some people are adamant in their belief that MacBooks should and/or will eventually have touch screens, but I remain convinced that they should not and never will. Ergonomically, a vertical (or nearly vertical) display is not comfortable for touch. And even more important, MacOS was designed for a mouse pointer. That’s fundamentally different from touch. MacOS is no better suited to touch than iOS is suited to support for a mouse or trackpad pointer. (I’d even argue that touch support on the Mac would be even clunkier than mouse support on iOS.)

The Touch Bar is not the answer to “How do we bring touchscreens to the Mac?”, because that question is not actually a problem. The Touch Bar is the answer to “These keyboard F-keys are cryptic and inflexible — what can we replace them with that’s better?” That’s an actual problem.

I tried out a Surface Studio in Microsoft’s San Francisco store (in the Westfield Mall) yesterday evening. It’s an interesting machine, as well-built as promised. And I do think it might prove useful and very popular with people who draw professionally. Most people don’t draw professionally, though. And using a pen or fingers on a mouse pointer-based OS remains as clunky as ever. Also, for what it’s worth, drawing latency on the Studio is OK, but not as good as on an iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. And there’s noticeable parallax between the glass surface and the actual pixels of the display.

Friday, 28 October 2016