Apple considering adding touchscreens to Macs, report says

Such a move was once derided by Steve Jobs as 'ergonomically terrible'

Engineers are actively engaged in the project, indicating that the company is seriously considering producing touchscreen Macs. Bloomberg
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Apple is working on adding touchscreens to its Mac computers, a move that would defy long-held company orthodoxy and embrace an approach that co-founder Steve Jobs once called “ergonomically terrible”.

Engineers are actively engaged in the project, indicating that the company is seriously considering producing touchscreen Macs for the first time, according to people familiar with the efforts. Still, a launch has not been finalised and the plans could change.

For more than a decade, the company has argued that touchscreens do not work well on laptops and that the iPad is a better option if someone wants a touch interface. Apple also has worried that touchscreen Macs could cannibalise iPad sales.

Based on current internal deliberations, the company could launch its first touchscreen Mac in 2025 as part of a larger update to the MacBook Pro, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are private.

A representative for Cupertino, California-based Apple declined to comment.

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The current work calls for Apple’s first touchscreen MacBook Pro to retain a traditional laptop design, including a standard trackpad and keyboard. But the laptop’s screen would support touch input and gestures — like an iPhone or iPad. Over time, Apple could expand touch support to more of its Mac models.

As part of the MacBook Pro revamp, Apple is also planning to move its displays to organic light-emitting diode, or OLED technology. The company currently uses LCDs — liquid crystal displays — on its Macs, but iPhones and Apple Watches already rely on OLED. Those screens offer improved brightness and colour and will also come to the iPad Pro in the first half of 2024.

If the touchscreen Mac moves forward, it would be a significant turnabout. The late Jobs said the idea of having computer users reach up to touch an upright screen “doesn’t work”.

“Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical,” he said in 2010. “After an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off.”

Apple’s laptop competitors, including Dell, HP, Microsoft, Lenovo, Samsung and Acer, have ploughed ahead with touchscreens. Apple is now the lone holdout among major computer makers to not offer such a product.

There also have been outward signs that Apple is considering a change in course.

In 2018, the company started to combine its applications, bringing iPad apps to the Mac. The following year, it did the same for apps from outside developers. In 2020, the company started permitting iPhone apps to run on its computers.

Even with the reversal on touchscreens, Apple is not actively working to combine the iPad and Mac operating systems, the people familiar with the situation said. The first touchscreen Macs are likely to use macOS.

For years, some Apple customers have been asking for touch Macs, and the company made previous attempts to satisfy those users. In 2016, it launched the Touch Bar, a virtual strip on the keyboard that controlled functions. The feature was a dud, confusing consumers and never gaining enough steam with app developers. Apple discontinued the feature in 2021 on the high-end MacBook Pro.

By this past October, Apple sounded less hostile to the idea of touchscreen Macs. When asked about the prospect at a conference, software engineering chief Craig Federighi answered: “Who’s to say?”

Updated: January 11, 2023, 10:26 PM
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