Apple has thus far maintained, repeatedly, that touch isn’t appropriate for the Mac. Yet almost every Windows and Chrome laptop shipping today has a touch screen and so do many desktops.
What’s more, the first generation of kids raised on iPad are growing up. They’re not touch-immigrants like us older folks. They’re touch-native. They expect screens to be like iPhones and iPads. They expect them to respond to touch. And when they don’t, there’s no consideration given to ergonomics or context — they simply think the screen is broken.
I’ve never, not once, tried to touch my MacBook screen to interact with the interface. Classic trackpad-and-keyboard computing is hard-wired into my brain. I get borderline angry when my fingers have to leave my iPad Pro keyboard to hit some control I can’t otherwise activate.
But I’m of that generation. I’ve seen kids try to touch my MacBook screen plenty of times. Especially when we’re watching or doing something together, all huddled around it.
So, how could Apple reconcile its stated belief that touch is better on trackpads and bars than on screens for the Mac with the reality that user expectation is soon going to run 100% counter to that belief?
The same thing any immovable object does when it encounters an irresistible force: yield.
Multitouch vs. Multitouch gestures
It’s possible we’ll eventually see a version of iOS running on MacBook-like hardware, or we’ll see something that replaces both iOS and macOS on a wide range of hardware, the way OS X replaced the old Mac OS.
And I don’t think Apple should waste engineering and design resources on retrofitting a touch layer onto macOS.
What I do think could work, though, is adding a control layer. I realize it’s easy to write something when you’re not the one who actually has to implement it, but here’s the thought:
Give Macs a touch screen that enables gesture navigation. Let people poke, swipe, and pinch the screen, if and when they really want to, the same way they can already on the trackpad.
Flick up a page in Safari. Zoom into a map. Tap to pause or play a movie. That sort of thing.
Out of touch, out of mind
For those that don’t want or need it, they never have to use it. Their screens remain as untouched as they do today. For those who expect it, though, it’ll work as expected.
Sure, they’ll have to learn they can’t do everything through the touch on a Mac, but I had to learn I can’t do everything through the keyboard on an iPad.
You know what? I lived.