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 Roundup: MacBook Pro

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 months ago
Ive, you and Cook need to go...
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 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)
Avatar
47 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's First MacBook Pro With a Retina Display Will Become 'Obsolete' in 30 Days

Monday June 1, 2020 7:50 am PDT by
If you are still hanging on to a Mid 2012 model of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display, and require a new battery or other repairs, be sure to book an appointment with a service provider as soon as possible. In an internal memo today, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has indicated that this particular MacBook Pro model will be marked as "obsolete" worldwide on June 30, 2020, just over...

Tim Cook Addresses George Floyd's Death and Ensuing Protests and Riots as Apple Temporarily Closes Some U.S. Stores

Sunday May 31, 2020 8:04 pm PDT by
Amid unrest in numerous U.S. cities following last week's killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Apple CEO Tim Cook has shared an internal memo with employees (via Bloomberg) addressing the pain that many are feeling and urging others to commit "to creating a better, more just world for everyone." Cook also announced that Apple is making donations to several groups challenging...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 Supplemental Update With Security Fix

Monday June 1, 2020 10:56 am PDT by
Apple today released a supplemental update for macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. The supplemental update comes a week after the release of the macOS Catalina 10.15.5 update. ‌macOS Catalina‌ 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the System...

iOS 14 Again Said to Be Compatible With All iPhones Able to Run iOS 13

Monday June 1, 2020 2:08 pm PDT by
iOS 14 will be compatible with all iPhones and iPod touch models able to run iOS 13, according to information shared today by Israeli site The Verifier. The compatibility data was allegedly found in a leaked version of iOS 14 and confirmed by what The Verifier says is a "trusted source from the system development process." iOS 13 is compatible with the iPhone 6s and later, with a full...

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 With Fixes for Recent 'unc0ver' Jailbreak Vulnerability

Monday June 1, 2020 9:58 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1, minor updates that come a little over a week after the release of iOS and iPadOS 13.5, major updates that brought the Exposure Notification API, FaceTime changes, mask-related unlocking updates and more. The iOS and iPadOS 13.5.1 updates are available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the updates, go to Settings >...

Mockups Depict iPhone 12 Lineup Sizes, Relocated SIM Tray

Monday June 1, 2020 1:22 pm PDT by
A series of 3D printed iPhone 12 mockups designed based on leaked schematics and info from Apple's supply chain was today shared by Japanese site Mac Otakara, giving us a first look at what we can expect from the 2020 iPhone lineup. Rumors have suggested Apple will release four iPhone 12 models in 2020: A 5.4-inch iPhone 12, a 6.1-inch iPhone 12, a 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro, and a 6.7-inch...

Five Mac Apps Worth Checking Out - June 2020

Tuesday June 2, 2020 2:25 pm PDT by
Apps developed for the Mac often don't receive as much coverage as apps designed for iPhones and iPads, so we have a series at MacRumors that highlights interesting Mac apps that are worth taking a look at. This month's apps are designed to make working from home a little bit easier. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Meeter (Free) - Working from home often...

Apple Music Joins Music Industry's Blackout Tuesday Awareness Campaign

Tuesday June 2, 2020 1:31 am PDT by
Apple Music has cancelled its Beats 1 radio schedule for Blackout Tuesday and is suggesting that listeners tune in to a radio stream celebrating the best in black music. Blackout Tuesday is a campaign organized by the music industry to support Black Lives Matter after Minneapolis citizen George Floyd was killed by police in the course of his arrest. On launching Apple Music, many users...

6.1-inch 'iPhone 12' Production to Begin in July Ahead of Other 2020 Models

Monday June 1, 2020 2:36 am PDT by
Volume production of Apple's forthcoming 6.1-inch "iPhone 12" models will start in July-August ahead of the rest of the company's flagship iPhone lineup this year, according to a new report by DigiTimes. Apple is widely rumored to be launching four new ‌iPhone‌ models in the usual September or October timeframe, although supply constraints and delays in production ramp-up could cause a...

Apple Releases tvOS 13.4.6 for Fourth and Fifth-Generation Apple TV Models

Monday June 1, 2020 9:56 am PDT by
Apple today released tvOS 13.4.6, a minor update to the tvOS operating system that runs on the fourth and fifth-generation Apple TV models. tvOS 13.4.6 comes a little over a week after the release of tvOS 13.4.5. tvOS 13.4.6, a free update, can be downloaded over the air through the Settings app on the Apple TV by going to System > Software Update. Apple TV owners who have automatic software ...