Where Apple’s reinvention of the keyboard may go next: Full touchscreen

“Keyboards are important,” Jason Snell writes for Macworld. “Apple clearly thinks to, too, because in recent weeks there have been reports about several new Apple patents regarding keyboard technology. From those patents to the controversial innovations that drove the latest generation of MacBook keyboards, Apple’s continues to push the boundaries of text input.”

“While Apple has received a lot of criticism for the feel of its new-generation MacBook keyboards, the more serious problem has been a general sense that the design is unreliable because any stray crumb or fleck of dust can cause keys to stop functioning,” Snell writes. “When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he spent a long time explaining why Apple had chosen to replace the physical hardware keyboard common on phones at the time with a touchscreen-based keyboard.”

“Would Apple consider one day replacing the physical keyboard with a touchscreen?” Snell writes. “When you look at another recent patent filing, it’s clear that Apple has at least investigated the possibility of turning the traditional laptop into a two-screen device.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: When the Apple’s software, Taptic Engine, and other innovations can provide the necessary tactile cues – as Force Touch trackpad and Magic Trackpad 2 do already – we’re all for it!

The problem is… these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it. And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped… It doesn’t work because the buttons and the controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you wanna add to this product. Well, how do you solve this? Hmm. It turns out, we have solved it! — Steve Jobs, unveiling the iPhone, January 9, 2007

SEE ALSO:
MacPad? Apple granted a patent for a dual display MacBook or future-gen iPad Pro – February 28, 2018
Trademark filing suggests ‘Magic Toolbar’ will be Apple’s name for new MacBook Pro OLED touch strip – October 20, 2016
It’s official: Apple sends invitations for ‘hello again’ event on October 27th – October 19, 2016
Apple set to release Final Cut Pro, iMovie updates with support for new MacBook Pro’s OLED ‘Touch Bar’ – October 19, 2016
Get ready, Apple’s new Macs are finally set to arrive! – October 19, 2016
All-new MacBook Pro, refreshed MacBook Air and iMac, and more coming at Apple’s October 27th special event – October 19, 2016
Apple plans to launch new Macs at special event on October 27th – October 18, 2016
Thoughts on Apple’s MacBook Pro OLED touch strip – August 11, 2016
Apple preps all-new MacBook Pro line with OLED touch strip and more – August 10, 2016
Apple’s new MacBook Pro expected to feature OLED touch-panel, Touch ID power button – August 8, 2016
Next-gen MacBook Pro could feature Touch ID power button – June 28, 2016
Leaked photos pretty much confirm 2016 MacBook Pro’s OLED touchpad – June 1, 2016
Thinner, lighter 2016 MacBook Pro may feature OLED display touch bar and Touch ID – May 24, 2016

14 Comments

  1. I make so many mistakes with the digital keyboard on my iPad as well as the current, Chicklets-style keyboard that yesterday I ordered a previous style, the white keyboard with the raised keys. Even the Apple Store Manager at Loma Linda Univ. uses it instead. I am super skepical that a digital keyboard would convince me to not use this one with the raised keys.

    1. You are so right, and every computer teacher in the school system where I work will agree. And this includes Windows, they have succumbed to the flat key fad.

      Well I guess you can’t call it a true fad, since fads die and go away.

      I have a feeling this won’t since Apple always knows best.

    1. And there’s still a huge market for used/reconditioned/refurbished ones. There’s also a store selling new ones but with a sticky space bar which I did not get. Then there’s the newly manufactured brand: Matias Tactile Pro: 109 keys, 18″ x 6-1/2″ for about $150 from B&H Photo:

      1. Thanks for the link. I used to also have an ADB version of a MacAlly full-travel keyboard that I really liked.

        Years ago I used to do a lot of database text input in FileMaker. On paper it would have been thousands of pages eventually; site survey reports mostly. No way I would try that now with what Apple sells for keyboards these days.

        1. It was obvious to me, even before this article, that Apple is inexorably moving/training people to eventually move on to a completely digital keyboard it will offer either as a built like in an iPad/iPhone or with its pro products because it absolutely detests raised keys which I want and need and because Star Trek. And voice input as a replacement will likely never work for me.

  2. Not without tactile feedback and positioning feel.
    Not efficient if one has to look at the keyboard to know where their fingers are positioned….. And that is what happens when on types on a flat surface with no identifying tactile interactivity and feedback.

    Same holds true for cars and touch screens… they forces one to take eyes off the road to identify a button behind a flat screen… where as buttons with tactile identities allow recognition without looking.
    Digital buttons on flat displays are an ergonomics step backwards. Imo

  3. “stray crumb or fleck of dust ”

    Maybe Apple should figure out how to just solve this problem instead of forcing the rest of the world to learn how to type on a flatscreen. No amount of design aesthetic, or technological flexibility can compensate for the huge drop in worker and creative productivity. I can type 40-50 words a minute with my eyes closed — composing and writing, or explaining complex problems to people. That is absolutely impossible on my iPad. Touchscreens have a place — short communication tidbits, social media comments & photos, etc. But not for any serious productivity or creative work requiring extended typing or critically important uses.

  4. Well, if that’s the direction that Apple wants to go, it simply means that instead of continuing to buy a MacBook Pro and a Thinkpad, I’ll just buy the Thinkpads and drop the Apple.

    Particularly since the Mac Pro’s are getting very long in the tooth and the iMac Pro isn’t a good solution for our workflow needs, so it is increasingly looking like buying Windows Towers for those IT solutions too….

  5. I sometimes joke that certain Apple consultants are so competent that they can touch-type on an on-screen keyboard.

    The problem, of course, is that so many of us DO touch-type, and that is simply not possible on a keyboard that does not have key-specific tactile feedback (e.g., nibs on the F and J keys for “home” position).

    Should Apple attempt this, the computer should be designed such that a standard keyboard can be interposed between the lower touch screen and the user to provide this ability, and the computer should be able to be closed normally with this keyboard in place. The keys on the keyboard must have significant “travel” distance for proper tactile feedback.

    If this isn’t available, this product is probably DOA in any business environment.

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