Apple Says Touchscreen Macs 'Not a Particularly Useful or Appropriate Application of Multi-Touch'

CNET has published an extended interview with Jony Ive in which the Apple design chief discusses some of the design decisions that went into developing the Touch Bar in the company's new MacBook Pro lineup.

The contextual OLED Touch Bar replacing the function keys on the new Macs was developed for at least two years, during which time Ive's team explored the idea of larger, haptic-rich trackpads. According to Ive, "a number of designs" were explored that "conceptually make sense", but were later rejected.

touch_bar_hero

When we lived on them for a while, sort of pragmatically and day to day, [they] are sometimes less compelling. This is something [we] lived on for quite a while before we did any of the prototypes. You really notice or become aware [of] something’s value when you switch back to a more traditional keyboard.

Ive explained that his team's point of departure was to see if there was a way of designing a new input that could be contextually specific and adaptable, yet also something that was mechanical and fixed. This required the development of a "difficult prototype" with a mature software environment, in order to work out if the idea had any real-world traction.

One of the things that remains quite a big challenge for us is that you have to prototype to a sufficiently sophisticated level to really figure out whether you’re considering the idea, or whether what you’re really doing is evaluating how effective a prototype is.

Ive said that after testing the designs, his team were unanimously "very compelled" by the Touch Bar as a viable input device, but that the real challenge was to integrate it into a specific product without compromising its existing design.

You sort of change your hat, because you have to figure out how do you then productize it, and develop the idea, and resolve and refine to make it applicable to a specific product. To do that in the context of the MacBook Pro — while at the same time you’re trying to make it thinner, lighter and more powerful — the last thing you want to do is burden it with an input direction that now has a whole bunch of challenges specific to something like touch.

Asked if the Mac community's expectations and emotional ties to their devices affects his design considerations, Ive emphasized that his team "don't limit ourselves in how we will push – if it's to a better place", although "what we won't do is just do something different that's no better".

Apple has published detailed design guidelines on how developers should use the Touch Bar, steering them away from use cases that would suggest it functions as a second display. When pushed, Ive refused to elaborate on why Apple "doesn't think a touchscreen is a particularly useful or appropriate application of multitouch", because it would lead him to have to talk about things his team are currently working on.

However, reiterating comments made in an earlier interview with Apple executives Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi, Ive said that incorporating the Touch Bar "is the beginning of a very interesting direction" for the Mac. Rumors have circulated recently that Apple is considering introducing a customizable e-ink keyboard in future Macs, possibly next year, although the veracity of these claims remains unclear.

You can read CNET's full interview with Jony Ive here.

Related Roundups: MacBook Pro 13", MacBook Pro 16"

Top Rated Comments

Floris Avatar
54 months ago
Try saying that to my mom who's so used to the iPad now that she keeps touching the MacBook Pro's screen when dad shows her a picture from a new email, and she tries to pinch to zoom and swipe to check for more pictures.
Score: 75 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Trusteft Avatar
54 months ago
I find the idea of a touchscreen on a laptop, not particularly useful...to be polite. I am sure there are people who like it. I am not one of them. I don't want to have fingerprints, dirt, etc on the screen. I want it to be as clear as possible without having to clean it 10 times a day. Also, fingers are just too fat to replace a mouse cursor and they block the view.
Score: 65 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tamagotchi Avatar
54 months ago
Ive, you and Cook need to go...
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Elbon Avatar
54 months ago

Laptops with touchscreens are extremely useful. Ask any Surface Book or any other touchscreen laptop owner.

If I can find one, I'll be sure to ask.
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
R.T. Avatar
54 months ago
Isn't that what the larger trackpad is for? You can do things like pinch to zoom and other multitouch gestures that are also done on touchscreens. To be honest I prefer doing all that stuff on my trackpad than on my screen.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dwaltwhit Avatar
54 months ago
I tried using a friend's touchscreen laptop. After about 3 minutes, my wrist started to hurt. It's not even a matter of aesthetic or design; it just hurts.
Score: 40 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple top apps games 2020

Apple Shares Top 20 Most Downloaded Games and Apps of 2020

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:38 pm PST by
Alongside picks for the top iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps and games of the year, Apple today shared charts featuring the Top Games of 2020 and the Top Apps of 2020, revealing the most popular free and paid apps and games during the year. Among Us! was the top free game of 2020, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile, Roblox, and Subway Surfers. Ink Inc. Tattoo Drawing was the number four free app,...
m1 chip macbook air pro

Developer Delves Into Reasons Why Apple's M1 Chip is So Fast

Monday November 30, 2020 1:57 pm PST by
Apple's M1 chip is the fastest chip that Apple has ever released in a Mac based on single-core CPU benchmark scores, and it beats out many high-end Intel Macs when it comes to multi-core performance. Developer Erik Engheim recently shared a deep dive into the M1 chip, exploring the reasons why Apple's new processor is so much faster than the Intel chips that it replaces. First and foremost,...
iphone8guide b

iOS 14.2 Quietly Added FaceTime 1080p Support to iPhone 8 and Later Models

Wednesday December 2, 2020 3:21 am PST by
Back in early November, Apple released iOS 14.2 and announced with it a slew of new features for iPhones, but one thing it didn't mention was the apparent addition of support for 1080p FaceTime calls on iPhone 8 and later devices. The little-known fact was discovered by MacMagazine, which found that Apple quietly updated the specs pages for devices like iPhone XR shortly after the release of ...
apple briefcase

AppleCare Memo Hints at Potential Hardware Announcement Next Tuesday

Thursday December 3, 2020 9:12 am PST by
Following a busy fall season in which Apple hosted three events in as many months, the company may have one more product announcement in store this year. In an internal memo this week, obtained by MacRumors from a reliable source, Apple informed service providers that it has AppleCare-related changes planned for Tuesday, December 8 at approximately 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time. Specifically, Apple ...
best apps of 2020

Wakeout! Named Apple's Best App of 2020, While Zoom Earns the Title for Best iPad App

Tuesday December 1, 2020 9:26 pm PST by
Apple today shared its App Store Best of 2020 winners, highlighting its picks for the top iOS, iPadOS, and macOS apps and games released over the course of the year. Apple's iPhone App of the Year award went to Wakeout!, which is a family friendly exercise and movement app that encourages people to complete easy exercises while at home. Apple's iPad App of the Year was Zoom, which soared in...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Kuo: Two Redesigned MacBook Pros in 2021 and New MacBook Air in 2022, All With Apple Silicon and Mini-LED Displays

Wednesday December 2, 2020 5:46 am PST by
Apple plans to release two redesigned MacBook Pros in 2021 and a new MacBook Air in 2022, all with mini-LED displays and Apple Silicon chips, according to TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a research note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an all-new form factor design are expected to launch in 2021, and a new "affordable"...
iOS 14

Apple Releases Third Betas of iOS 14.3 and iPadOS 14.3 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Wednesday December 2, 2020 10:04 am PST by
Apple today seeded the third betas of upcoming iOS 14.3 and iPadOS 14.3 updates to developers for testing purposes, two weeks after releasing the second betas and a month after the launch of iOS and iPadOS 14.2. iOS and iPadOS 14.3 can be downloaded through the Apple Developer Center or over the air after the proper developer profile has been installed. The iOS 14.3 update brings the...
homepod mini amazon echo size

$99 Speaker Showdown: HomePod Mini vs. Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio

Wednesday December 2, 2020 3:12 pm PST by
Apple recently released the HomePod mini, a new $99 version of the original HomePod that's smaller, cuter, and, most importantly, competitively priced. At $99, the HomePod mini can better compete with affordable smart speakers from companies like Google and Amazon. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The HomePod mini has been praised for its high-quality sound at its...
Mac Mini 2018

Apple Developers Now Able to Natively Run macOS Within AWS With Amazon EC2 Mac Instances

Monday November 30, 2020 9:01 pm PST by
As AWS re:Invent kicks off, Amazon Web Services today announced new Mac instances for Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, allowing AWS customers to run on-demand macOS workloads in the AWS cloud for the first time. Amazon says that the new feature extends the flexibility, scalability, and cost benefits of AWS to all Apple developers as those creating apps for iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, Apple...
magsafe duo charger

MagSafe Duo Charger for iPhone 12 and Apple Watch Now Available for Purchase

Tuesday December 1, 2020 4:15 pm PST by
Apple today began selling the MagSafe Duo Charger that was announced alongside the new iPhone 12 models back in October. Priced at $129, the MagSafe Duo offers a MagSafe charging puck for the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 mini, along with an Apple Watch charger. Though the accessory was announced in October and was listed as coming soon, it was not clear when it would launch. Orders...