After years of denying that possibility, Apple’s MacBooks could be equipped with touch screens as soon as 2025according to a report by Bloomberg. But what does this mean for current owners of MacBooks and Windows laptops, and for people considering switching from one platform to another?
If the new reports are true, it’s a major about-face on a subject that has long been one of the main fault lines between the iPad and the Mac.
We’ve taken to calling it the grand unified theory of Apple operating systems. The idea is that over time, iPads would add more features taken from Macs, and Macs, especially MacBooks, would incorporate features borrowed from iPads. In fact, it has already started to happen.
After all, add an (expensive) keyboard case to an iPad and you have something that looks a lot like a clamshell laptop. That’s especially true now that Apple’s tablets can use a mouse or trackpad and multitask in a more computer-like way than before.
We first asked for it 12 years ago
Scott Stein from CNET.com began to call for this convergence from 2010suggesting that “iMacs and MacBooks would benefit from being able to launch a touch-optimized iOS mode that would use the already multitouch-ready iPad/iPhone software to its advantage”.
That same year, his colleague Dan Ackerman asked if the then new touchscreen iPad should be “considered a computer?“ and then has asked the same question for the 10th anniversary of the iPad in 2020. In this sense, Apple has been manufacturing a touchscreen computer for many years now, and adding this functionality of the iPad to the MacBook line is not such an outrageous idea.
The main argument against touchscreen Macs has long been, as Steve Jobs once said, a concern for ergonomics : “after a short period of time you start to tire, and after a prolonged period of time your arm wants to fall off. It doesn’t work, it’s ergonomically terrible.”.
Mac and iPad, closer than ever. Screenshot/Apple
For someone who’s been testing and reviewing laptops before Apple’s MacBook line even existed, that’s certainly true…if you use the touchscreen as your only or primary means of interacting with a laptop. There’s a reason touchscreens became popular on Windows laptops around the launch of Windows 8 and have since become a standard feature on almost all mid-range laptops and above.
It’s not that the touchscreen should be your only, or even primary, input method. On the contrary, we have discovered that it is sometimes a very convenient way to use your computer. It can be pressing an on-screen button, scrolling through long web pages or documents, or even rearranging windows on the desktop. As a full-time input device, laptop touchscreens are terrible. As an occasional input device for specific taskslaptop touchscreens are excellent.
It’s happened before, in a way
Apple and others have toyed with the idea of touch on Macs before, and it didn’t go down well. That’s the strongest argument we can find against touchscreen MacBooks.
The Touch Bar of the MacBook Pro, launched in 2016, is a small secondary touchscreen. It never really caught on, and many were happy to see it dropped from later models (it survives, for now, in the current 13-inch MacBook Prowhich is a bit of a backwards step).
Even before that, products like the AirBar promised to add touch functionality to MacBooks, but it never really worked.
The touchscreen ModBook of 2008. CNET
The first touchscreen MacBook was a device called ModBook and designed by Axiotron. It was a standard MacBook Pro, taken apart and reassembled with a new touchscreen to make it a Mac tablet. But without a keyboard, and without even basic screen rotation, it was “an expensive oddity”.
While this idea didn’t last long, it does raise the possibility that adding a touchscreen could also pave the way for new Mac designs which look more like convertible Windows PCs, favoring a possible Mac/iPad convergence.
Assuming future MacBooks keep their already excellent keyboards and touchpads, adding a touchscreen doesn’t have to hurt the experience. In fact, we’d bet the touch on a Mac would be about the same as on a Windows laptop – a feature that’s usually built in by default and is there when you want it, but easy to ignore the rest of the way. time.
Article of CNET.com adapted by CNET France