The case for a Multi-Touch Mac

“Last weekend, I spent some time with a couple of friends who both have Windows laptops and I found myself experiencing a hitherto unfamiliar feeling while watching them use their computers: envy,” Dan Moren writes for Macworld.

“Look, I know. I know that touchscreen notebooks are supposed to be toaster-fridges, hybrids that aren’t as good as either a full-blown touch-based device like the iPad or a traditional laptop,” Moren writes. “But as I watched them swiping away at the screen, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps there’s a missed opportunity for Apple here. ”

“To me the biggest reason for Apple to continue investigating touch-based interfaces on the Mac is simple: touch is the future,” Moren writes. “Apple has been second to none in its promotion and implementation of those technologies on mobile—but on the Mac, it’s been far more hesitant. The company’s remained pretty adamant that it has no plans to build a touchscreen into its Mac laptops or desktops.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple should get to work on that – right after they make a $500 netbook.

As we wrote earlier this month, Apple brass seem to have convinced themselves that the iPad is the PC/Mac replacement for 95% of personal computer users today and, by Jobs, they’re sticking to it regardless of flashing neon signs to the contrary – even as they inexplicably fail to update iPads for Christmas and in the face of ever-declining iPad sales. We’ll be very interested to see what Cook & Co.’s plans are for iPad and, of course, for the Mac in this coming year.

Here’s an idea: Apple could sell iPad Pros as they do now, and for those wanting a “Mac,” Apple could sell them the macOS-powered display-less keyboard/trackpad/cpu/RAM/SSD/battery base unit. Attach your iPad for the display and off you go, you Mac-headed truck driver! Plus, you get to use the iPad’s battery, too, extending battery life to provide a truly all-day battery for portable Mac users. Detach the display and you get your iOS-powered iPad back, same as always.

Too outside the box? We’d love to be able to take our 12-inch iPad Pro, mate it with this theoretical Mac base unit, and turn it into a portable Mac. Right now, we carry 12-inch iPad Pros and MacBooks in our backpacks. Guess what’s redundant? Right, the displays. We don’t need to carry two screens on the road. The iPad Pro’s screen would do just fine, thanks.

Buy the Mac base on its own (for those who already have 12-inch iPad Pros) or buy it as part of a package (get a new 12-inch iPad Pro at a nice discount when you buy it with the Mac base). Imagine if Apple had unveiled this headless MacBook that you use with your iPad at their iPad event this past fall. What would the narrative about Apple be like versus what it is today? With such a product, would Apple have missed its revenue and profit goals for the year, causing Tim Cook and other high-level Apple executives to have their compensation cut? How many more 12-inch iPad Pro sales would such a product have generated? Enough to return iPad to unit sales growth, we bet. And, how many more Macs would have been sold, too?

As for touch:

To us longtime Apple watchers, Cupertino seems to be saying, “Multi-Touch on the screen only when trackpads are not part of the device.”MacDailyNews, November 19, 2008

Does it make more sense to be smearing your fingers around on your notebook’s screen or on a spacious trackpad (built-in or on your desk) that’s designed specifically and solely to be touched? Apple thinks things through much more than do other companies. The iPhone’s and iPad’s screens have to be touched; that’s all they has available. A MacBook’s screen doesn’t not have to be touched in order to offer Multi-Touch. There is a better way: Apple’s way. And, no Gorilla Arm, either.

The only computers using Multi-Touch properly, using device-appropriate Multi-Touch input areas are Macintosh personal computers from Apple that run OS X (and Linux and can even slum it with Windows, if need be) and iOS even more personal computers (EMPCs), namely: iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and iPad mini.

Note that none of this bars a “MacPad” from production. Any iOS-based iPad would become a high quality display (possibly still “touchable,” but likely not due to the reasoning stated above) when docked into a “MacBook” (running OS X, and providing keyboard, trackpad, processor, etcetera). Such a convertible device would negate having to carry both an iPad (car) and a MacBook (truck) around. They’d be one thing, but able to be separated into two, each providing the best capabilities of their respective form factors.MacDailyNews, May 4, 2013

Think code convergence (more so than today) with UI modifications per device. A unified underlying codebase for Intel, Apple A-series, and, in Apple’s labs, likely other chips, too (just in case). This would allow for a single App Store for Mac, iPhone, and iPad users that features a mix of apps: Some that are touch-only, some that are Mac-only, and some that are universal (can run on both traditional notebooks and desktops as well as on multi-touch computers like iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and – pretty please, Apple – Apple TV). Don’t be surprised to see Apple A-series-powered Macs, either.MacDailyNews Take, January 9, 2014

Anyone in the market for a 12.9-inch device that’s an OS X-powered MacBook when docked with its keyboard base and an iOS-powered iPad when undocked? — MacDailyNews, October 7, 2014

Illustration from Apple's hybrid Mac-iPad patent application
Illustration from Apple’s hybrid Mac-iPad patent application

SEE ALSO:
Lack of touchscreen Mac shows Apple is adrift without adequate product leadership – January 7, 2017

28 Comments

  1. I’m with you MDN, and think that hybrid would be awesome!

    You wouldn’t need to build a Frankenstein hybrid OS – keep macOS on the macBook portion, keep iOS on the iPad portion. When plugged into the macBook portion, it would just use the iPad as it’s screen. I already mirror my macBook to my iPad PRO as a second screen via apps, that doesn’t put macOS on my iPad, just uses the iPad as a second screen. It seems very simple to me, and I would pay to have that macBook unit for my iPad PRO!

    When can you assume responsibility for Product Development at Apple, MDN??

    1. Agreed. This is a nice idea. The simple fact is, looking at the screen right now on my Retina MBP, tapping many of the UI controls (like the traffic light window controls) would suck *and* smear the screen.

      It’s also more work to drag from corner to corner on the screen than the trackpad equivalent of dragging across the screen.

      Remove the screen and it becomes an iPad, with the iOS hardware in the screen itself? Yeah, that would be just fine.

      If it makes the Mac a bit thicker again, so be it.

  2. It will never happen because Tim Cook is too lazy.

    In order to be lazier than Cook, you would have to be a corpse.

    Updating an existing product is too much work for him, do you really think that incompetent Cook and his team of bumbling chimpanzees can actually create a decent new product category from scratch that doesn’t suck?

    Dream on!

  3. apples clueless leadership clings to outdated dogma, a very convenient substitute for vision and thought,

    the digital revolution should be all about extending capability – so incorporate it into laptops.

    for those who prefer not to use it, don’t use it, but for those who do, they can. why unnecessarily limit yourself – or “the rest of us” ?

    build a better mousetrap…..

  4. Not sold on touchscreen laptops, have students that walk in them and I try to use them and they are cumbersome and see no use for them. On a PC they are helpful because the trackpads are terrible. I think the touchpad on a MacBook is a lot better and see no need to have to reach up to the screen. Some what agree with MDN view.

  5. God I love that generic Mac Tablet patent response… doesn’t MDN realize that M$ has already done that? As have others? It won’t be amazing.. It will just be another already done product. Only it will be crippled with iOS apps instead of full blown OSX apps (fuck macOS, that rebrand is the death of Mac)

  6. Apple does not need to follow the Surface. Apple needs to make affordable MacBooks. Then people would happily buy the the iPad + MacBook if they absolutely had to have both devices. Together hey both fit easily into any slim satchel, you know. All Apple has to do is give users the ability to LOCALLY manage and transfer files between the two units (or even an iOS device and a Windows PC), and use the iPad as an input device with wired (reliable) or wireless (flaky and insecure) connection. Until Apple wakes up and discovers this, Microsoft will continue to outpace the artificially crippled iPad in sales and profits.

  7. I love my iPad Pro. But I still go to my laptops (Mac and Windblows) and desktops (sadly, Windoze only these days) for a great many features. The reason? One simple answer – a real file system.

    1. Just looked back at this and saw a seeming contradition. Is it “a great many” or “One”? Well, my thinking, which I didn’t say well, was that I do a lot of things on other devices (including things that I might otherwise do on my iPad) because I can then easily save them on that standard file system and then share them more easily and in different ways than I would be able to do easily on the iPad alone.

      I used to think that I was okay creating on my iPad, despite others saying it was better suited for consumption than creation. Now, I clearly understand, and turn to other tools more to create. And it isn’t even directly because of the creation tools – I love some of what I do exclusively on my iPad! It is because of the file system.

  8. I reject outright Moren’s ridiculous assertion that “touch is the future”. That’s almost as stupid as “The future of TV is Apps”. The sole case he offers for wanting to touch his screen is to scroll. REALLY? You know there are mouses with click wheels for that. So then Moren damns the touchbar with faint praise, calling it inadequate. Well, what specifically do you friends touch on their Surface screens that you desperately want to touch too?

    Let’s not confuse touchscreen device sales with indications for Mac future. As a technology, why do so many devices come with touchscreens? Because for casual communication, phones need the thinnest input system possible. Because Apple made the mistake of claiming an iPad (an overgrown iPod Touch) could replace PCs for many people. Because now touchscreens are cheap enough to use everywhere, even your local restaurant soda dispenser.

    BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT A MAC IS.

    For dumb utilitarian uses, too, the “IOT” devices all find that touchscreens are cheap and easy to fit on every electronic device that you interface for a few seconds at a time. When you are concentrating in front of a screen for hours at a time, tiny touchsreens just don’t work well.

    Most people strongly prefer the conventional laptop layout for doing serious work, and the biggest possible display with user-specific input devices (Wacom tablet, ergonomic keyboard, trackball, etc) for desktop computing. Touchscreen for these use cases does not appeal at all.

    The claptrap required to have a detachable touch screen makes it a non-starter for me. I really just wish Apple would sell a wider range of user-upgradeable computers, displays, and wifi: both at lower price points and also at cutting edge performance.

    It seems to me, what Moren really wants is his iPad Pro with keyboard cover to have a real file system and real processing power.

    Don’t dumb down the Mac !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. ““touch is the future”

      Maybe, for very simple apps that don’t require any degree of precision in the process of selecting something like a graphic element.

      To those of you who work with complex operations involving hundreds of graphical items an a project, NO, NOT A CHANCE.

      A complete waste.

      I use on a daily basis approximately 12 different 3rd party apps to produce HTML5 animations for things like web pages, UI interfaces etc.

      Many of my animations have over 50 timelines in one document, and some of the timelines in EACH one of those 50 timelines may have 100 separate actions in 30 seconds. If you tried to use a touch action to select that action, the touch screen would have to be 4×8 feet in order to see all the timeline relationships, and to be able to select each one with a fingertip or a stylus, even. And then try to drag that one timeline action to a new place in the timeline.

      Sorry, that kind of thing requires a mouse, and given the complexity and fine detail, you need to often keyboard enter the number of pixels that you move an element. A drag is too imprecise.

      Get a grip, people. There is a world out there where people actually produce the content that you view on your iOS consumption devices. It doesnt just come out of a rainbow in a pretty little package.

      It’s not a question of preferring a mouse, keyboard and dialogue boxes, its a question of necessity!

      1. I could imagine special gloves/finger covers that could go from ‘flat’ finger to a tapered capacitive point depending on at what angle you touch the display which would solve most of the ‘precision’ problems people bring up with current touch interfaces. Maybe it will bring back those ‘rings’ that were around when PDAs with resistive screens were more the rage.

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