Apple have great plans for Macs, which don’t include turning them into giant iPhones
It wasn’t an accident that Microsoft launched their new touch-enabled home computer the day before many thought Apple would update the iMac. It turned out that they attempted to spoil something that didn’t happen. Microsoft hoped for news coverage over the last few days where their new Surface computer would be favourably compared with a new non touchscreen-enabled iMac.
I don’t think Apple will make touchscreen Macs — specially ones with large screens. Direct manipulation of a UI much larger than an iPad Pro for hours on end is a choice between aching arms (screen in front of you) or aching neck (screen at an angle comfortable enough for your arms).
What do you do when the scale of the thing you want to manipulate is too uncomfortable for most people to work with? Apple will explore indirect touch manipulation — the touch bar is just the start.
Imagine an iPad-sized trackpad with advanced force-feedback. It would show a faint outline of your hands on your 27" — 40" — 52" — 120" screen/display/TV/projected image. This way you will know without looking where your fingers will touch the screen should you choose to.
Advanced 3D touch would mean that parts of the UI would be made to feel different as you move your fingers over the display. For example video editors would be able to feel visual and audio edits bump their fingers as they fly by — even when skimming at 20x real time. Previously set markers would feel different too.
Making computers like phones (adding touch screens) won’t make them modern, or ‘cool’ like mobile phones. Sometimes adding the current manipulation metaphor (direct) to devices with the previous metaphor (indirect) makes them worse.
…hence the Apple Touch Bar. Coming soon to your external keyboard and as an app on your iOS device.
More on indirect touch in a 2010 post on my old blog.