In recent years I’ve been somewhat critical of Microsoft’s Windows 10 touchscreen strategy as an anemic response to Apple’s success with the Mac. My thinking has changed. Not about Microsoft. A touchscreen PC makes a compelling reason to buy vs. the Mac or an iPad, and the commercials comparing the devices carry a good message. Not about Windows 10 on touchscreen devices, which are not as elegant to use as an iPad. A touchscreen is an expectation for electronic devices in the 21st century and Apple needs to bite the bullet, suck it up, swallow some pride, and put a touchscreen on a Mac. Hell, why not make a Mac with a removable touchscreen that leaves the keyboard behind.
Simply put, the Mac needs a touchscreen.
Why? Touchscreens are everywhere. Refrigerators, microwave ovens, washers and dryers, tablets, smartphones, PCs, and a gazillion other devices. Apple didn’t invent the touchscreen, but the iPhone maker showed us how it should be used. For now, Apple’s 20th century executives, designers, and engineers think a touchscreen Mac is just wrong and doesn’t make a good user interface. They are correct. But that is not what is important.
If the Mac had a touchscreen there I times when I would use it. Because it’s there. And multi-touch to zoom in or out of a screen, or to make finger tip annotations on a document, has a place. I see Windows PC users do it often on their touchscreen PCs. Without a keyboard, a Windows 10 touchscreen notebook is a very clumsy tablet. But again, that’s not the issue. There are times when touch is enough, especially when sharing information, doing a presentation, or just relaxing and consuming content– which is what many iPad owners do. An ultra precise, iPad-like user interface is not that important.
Apple’s Senior VP, Phil Schiller:
If we were to do Multi-Touch on the screen of the notebook, that wouldn’t be enough – then the desktop wouldn’t work that way.
That seems more like a good example of executive denial. Why not do it for a touchscreen iMac, too?
Can you imagine a 27-inch iMac where you have to reach over the air to try to touch and do things? That becomes absurd.
On one level, Schiller is correct. But you’re not going to use a touchscreen iMac the same way you use an iPad or iPhone. Both can also use a Bluetooth keyboard and that functionality creates a better way to type content into the devices. Likewise, a touchscreen Mac notebook or desktop iMac could allow users to draw easier, to annotate easier, and for some, navigate easier, and just as we don’t use a Bluetooth keyboard on iOS devices all the time, a touchscreen Mac wouldn’t be used as a touchscreen all the time.
You can’t optimize for both. It’s the lowest common denominator thinking.
No, it’s just a different denominator. Apple wouldn’t be throwing away keyboard access, or mouse access, or trackpad access just to force users to engage with a touch screen. Instead, the touchscreen would be simply another function; another way to navigate and perform certain intuitive functions. Does Apple’s designers and engineering teams think a touchscreen makes sense on a Mac?
Our instincts were that it didn’t, but, what the heck, we could be wrong-so our teams worked on that for a number of times over the years. We’ve absolutely come away with the belief that it isn’t the right thing to do. Our instincts were correct.
If Apple expected every Mac user to move from keyboard, mouse, or trackpad to a macOS version optimized for a touchscreen, then yes, their instincts were correct. But that’s not the issue. Touchscreens are everywhere and people use them. In some devices it’s the only interface. In other devices, Windows 10 notebooks and desktops are a good example, there are multiple interfaces, of which touch is merely one.
Touchscreens have become so predominant in the industry that the only segment of the traditional PC industry that is growing is touchscreen notebooks and hybrids. Meanwhile, Mac sales are down again. A Windows 10 touchscreen experience may not be as good as an iPad, but then iPad sales are down again, too.
I’m willing to rethink the touchscreen issue, and customers are buying touchscreen PCs in greater numbers than Apple sells Macs, so maybe it’s time for Apple’s aging executives, engineers, and designers to rethink the issue, too.