Tim Bajarin: Apple needs a touch-screen MacBook

“To date, Apple has resisted putting touch screens on anything but its iOS devices, and from what I can tell, it has little interest in deviating from this approach,” Tim Bajarin writes for PC Magazine. “I would urge Apple to reconsider.”

“Most MacBook users like its small size and portability and do not use a mouse. The TouchPad works fine, but I would prefer the ease of use I get with the iPad touch screen, not to mention a seamless transition between laptop and tablet,” Bajarin writes. “I have discussed this with Apple officials, and they believe wholeheartedly that the Touch Bar is the best way to add touch to Mac.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: No.

Apple’s way make sense: Touch onscreen only when there is no other primary input available.

Apple just posted record quarterly Mac sales. No touchscreens required.

What you really have to see is anyone under the age of 12, largely untainted by previous computing paradigms, using an iPad. That is the future, not trying to turn Macs into iPads.

That said, as we’ve asked many times over the past few years: Who’s 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 Pro when undocked? That sure would save space in the backpack!

As we wrote back in January: 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 12.9-inch iPad Pros) or buy it as part of a package (get a new 12.9-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 last fall. 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?

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


  1. What on earth for? Sore arms and greasy fingers all over the screen? No thanks!

    Besides, since when did we start listening to some jerk from PC Magazine anyway?

    1. OK, a legitimate question. My iPad Pro with the keyboard is like a laptop in form factor. Sore arms? Not so much. Greasy fingers? Of course. Why are screen smudges ok on iOS devices, but not Macs? I imagine a MacBook where mouse, keyboard and touch are available methods of interacting with the device. Touch for some things, mouse for others. And the smudges? That’s not a good point, if we’re already doing that on our mobile devices.

      1. Steve Jobs said a lot of things…until he changed his mind! Sure, he was consistent on the fundamentals of making insanely great products – the vision – the focus on perfection. But he was not always right the first time. And, sometimes, he probably said things just to throw off the competition.

        In this case, what is the harm of adding multitouch functionality to laptop displays? As MDN so often points out with the Apple patent application, a MB or MBP is not much different in form from an iPad attached to a keyboard base.

        If iOS and MacOS are going to eventually merge, then it stands to reason that the I/O methods will also merge. If Gorilla Arm is a major problem, then people will not use the touch aspects very much. But they do not have to use them very often for them to be valuable. There are times when it would be so nice to be able to use an Apple Pencil on my non-iPad Mac display. Not all of the time…but sometimes. And I can’t.

  2. Nope. One OS for fingers, the other for the best trackpad in the industry. If anything, make the track pad Apple Pencil compatible. While your at it, make all of your productivity apps (pages, keynote), pencil enabled…on the Freaking iPad Pro.

    1. I work on all the Apple devices from Mac, iPhone, Ipad, and due to contractual job requirements, Windows 10, 40+hours week.

      I do the normal computer things, e-mail, web research, HTML5 animation, image processing, etc.

      In all that, there is nothing that has been or would be better accomplished by a touch system, except for obvious things like the iPhone and the iPad. I use them as auxiliary devices, nothing more, based upon experience since 1988. No content production on either, Pages etc have no value as productivity apps for me. Making some notes and scheduling, wonderful for that. Otherwise……

      I understand that maybe it does for you…..but there is no touch app that will do what I make my living doing.

  3. I HAVE to say, though, that after using an iPad Pro for some time, I find myself tapping fields on a webpage to move my cursor. Not all the time but often enough to where I think some limited touch would be nice to have. If only to make the transition between the two more common 😉

  4. There are many negatives to touch. Your hand obscures the screen and holding your arms out in front has been used as punishment/torture. Why would you want that? When the army wanted to use touch screens, I told them they would need to use a pencil sharpener to get their finger tips small enough. A simple demo to a senior general proved it was not practical for the intended use. Apple use of touch is right.

  5. If I wanted Microsoft features, I’d buy Microsoft products. I think I’d measure market cap to determine who needs something the other one has. Microsoft is the official some-widget of the NFL right now – not the best thing to be crowing about. That looks like something Apple chose well on, too.

    1. If you define “Microsoft features” as something that appeared on Windows PCs first, then you are limiting the future of the Mac.

      Open your mind! Why would you let Microsoft or anyone else dictate the boundaries of your Apple/Mac/iOS experience?? If it is a useful feature, then you want it regardless of who might have originally developed it or if it is currently available on Windows. If you want to be a free thinker, then you have to avoid the trap of contrarian viewpoints, as well. Otherwise you are just living in a different box.

  6. I certainly don’t want it. My shoulders have a touch of bursitis and don’t like those type of arm movements. A good touchpad is more than satisfactory, for me. I honestly don’t see the point of having both a touch-screen and a touchpad. They seem to unnecessarily overlap in function. I definitely don’t like smudgy displays, if at all possible. I think it comes down to personal preference and I wouldn’t say Apple shouldn’t make them for those who want a touch-screen MacBook. It’s just not for me.

  7. It’s not the hardware that’s stopping a touch screen Mac, it’s the software. Apple can easily hook a touch screen to a Mac.

    Mac OS isn’t designed for touch. Look at the menu bars on many of the advanced apps, they are so small, you can’t manipulate them with fingers.
    Unlike Microsoft’s Window users most Apple users expect ‘perfection’ or at least very high standards, any marring of user experience and there will be complaints. If Mac users finger stab at menu items and can’t get it easily, dear god , it would be worse than ‘notch’….

    1 –even if you got Mac OS touch enabled, you would have to convince people like Adobe (Photoshop) to optimized their apps both for touch and mouse. Worse for smaller specialized app companies who can’t even adequately update their current Mac apps due to small market share, so optimizing many apps for both touch and mouse ain’t going to happen.

    2– if the touch experience for the OS and app is optimized for a Mac book , I suspect on a giant iMac it would be kludgy and inefficient simply due to difference in screen size. If you make a app efficient for both touch and mouse for various screen sizes (i.e controls change) it would be really complicated and exacerbates point one.

    (the ‘simplification’ of Mac OS, possibly due to design aesthetics or make it more iOS like to help iPhone switcher users — many iPhone users use Win PCs — has driven hard core Mac users up the wall in some cases. The new Finder is way less configurable today (you can no longer even put a coloured icon in the Finder sidebar… ) . Space stops me from going into details. Making Mac even more iOS like is horrible for high end users).

    (I’m typing this looking at a 27 inch Wacom Cintiq, pen sensitive screen so I have an idea how it would turn out )


  8. Not this again – Apple explained their philosophy on this years ago…

    “We’ve done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical. It gives great demo but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. it doesn’t work, it’s ergonomically terrible. Touch surfaces want to be horizontal, hence pads.”


  9. All the complainers are so myopic. What would really be wrong with it? If you don’t want to touch the screen, don’t. You all act like somebody would force you to use the touchscreen. Flexibility is good. Hard headedness isn’t.

  10. NO NO NO effing touchscreen! Much more productive with a keyboard and mouse!

    Waiting for the day when I can dock my iPhone and connect a mouse, keyboard, and display to it.

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