Steve Jobs was formally opposed to it: Apple would prepare the first tactile Mac

Steve Jobs was formally opposed to it: Apple would prepare the first tactile Mac

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According to Bloomberg, Apple is preparing to market a MacBook Pro with an OLED touch screen in 2025, after having often opposed it. How to explain such a change of strategy?

“After a short period of time you start to tire and after a longer period your arm feels like dropping off. It doesn’t work, it’s an ergonomic disaster”. With these words spoken on October 20, 2010, during one of his last press conferences, Steve Jobs had buried all possibilities for Apple to launch a Mac with a touch screen.

The co-founder of Apple was very sure of himself: “We’ve done tons of testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical”. 12 years later, Apple still listens to his advice. While the PC market has long offered touchscreen computers, Apple has always opposed them and continues to criticize the technology publicly, often through its vice president Craig Federighi.

In his penultimate keynote, Steve Jobs publicly opposed touchscreen Macs (from 56:32).

15 years after the iconic statements of Steve Jobs and 14 years after his death, can Apple suddenly change its tune? According to the extremely knowledgeable Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, the first touchscreen MacBook Pro is scheduled for 2024.

Does a touchscreen Mac make more sense in 2025 than in 2010?

The world left by Steve Jobs is technologically not the same as today. If all the commentators of the Californian brand have the statements of the co-founder of Apple in mind, it is important to remember that no one can really imagine what Steve Jobs would think if he were still at the head of Apple. It also happens that by appointing Tim Cook successor in 2011, Steve Jobs had asked him never to wonder what he would do in his place.

In the event that Apple does launch a tactile Mac in the next few years, it would be difficult to blame it based on statements made by its co-founder 15 years ago. On the other hand, it seems relevant to ask what has changed at Apple, to finally change its mind, after years of criticism.

Here are some of the arguments used by the brand when asked about a touchscreen Mac:

  • A computer screen is laid out vertically (not flat), so you would have to bend over to use it.
  • On a computer, the trackpad is the closest thing to a touch-sensitive surface. This is more than enough to perform gestures (like zooming).
  • Apple already has the iPad for people looking for a touch product.
  • The user experience could not be perfectly replicated with a touch screen. Why take the risk of touching macOS?
The screen of the Surface Laptop Studio, a PC from Microsoft, is touch-sensitive. // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

Bringing iPad and Mac closer together, an inevitable path?

Often asked about the issue, Apple has always been extremely critical of touchscreen PCs, sometimes with memorable statements (we remember the comparison between the Microsoft Surface and the “fusion between a toaster and a refrigerator”). However, in recent years, several signs prove that Apple is questioning its firmness.

Just see the iPad. In 2010, the year Steve Jobs was criticizing the idea of ​​a touchscreen Mac, it was just a giant touchscreen. In 2023, the iPad is often sold with a keyboard, supports the mouse (with a trackpad integrated into certain keyboards) and can be used as a computer, with windows. All of this would have been implausible in Jobs’s day, since the iPad was not meant to replicate the user experience of a Mac.

The Magic Keyboard Folio offers a keyboard with function keys.  The hitting is very good.  // Source: Thomas Ancelle / Numerama
The latest iPad’s Magic Keyboard Folio turns it into a computer, complete with keyboard and mouse. // Source: Thomas Ancelle / Numerama

On Mac, Apple tried to take an alternative route for touch with the Touch Bar, finally abandoned in 2021. It was a touch line on the keyboard, to display shortcuts.

Gradually, Apple is bringing the iPad and the Mac closer together. They use the same processor, share some applications and even have some interface elements in common (Stage Manager, the multitasking of the iPad, exists on Mac since macOS Ventura). However, according to Bloomberg, the touchscreen MacBook Pro would remain under macOS, while the iPad would remain under iPadOS. We should therefore expect an update of the operating system dedicated to computers to adapt to manipulation with the fingers. An aspect on which Windows has a lot of advance.

Stage Manager, new in iPadOS 16, allows you to manage 4 windows at the same time.  The iPad is capable of more, but it's still constrained.  // Source: Thomas Ancelle / Numerama
Stage Manager allows you to use the iPad like a Mac… but with several limitations. // Source: Thomas Ancelle / Numerama

Should we believe the statements of Bloomberg? The 2025 deadline gives Apple plenty of time to change its mind if “tons of tests” point out to him that ” it does not work “. Anyway, at a time when iPad Pros are adored but criticized for their too limited operating system, no one would really complain about a Mac capable of being used as a tablet.

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