Dear Tim Cook…, A Case For Touch-enabled macOS

Dear Tim,

First of all, I’d like to say I have tremendous respect for what you are doing. I cannot think of another company who is under as much scrutiny and is critiqued as heavily as Apple. I would ask that you hear me out though.

By profession I am a UX Designer and UI Engineer. I am well aware what all goes into user study and research and I have no doubt in my mind that Apple has done it’s due diligence in studying out this issue.

Now I don’t know what the design process is over at Apple in finding the correct solution, but if it is anything like the company I work for, everything is based on customer actuals and how the feature in question can create more value in the product.

The addition of the touch bar was a step in the right direction. The ability to interact with the Mac in a similar way to our iPhones and iPads is great, but is containing touch in a small strip above the keyboard the right answer though? Yes it is within a finger's reach, but will it outweigh the function and benefit you might gain if we expanded touch to the entirety of the device’s display?

Users have definitely gotten used to using the new Touch Bar. In fact some have reported that they catch themselves trying to touch the screen of their MacBook Pro as a direct result of the simple idea that you can interact with the Mac via touch.

At 3:14 you can see what I am talking about

I suppose people will slowly adjust, but that tells us that the natural interaction is to interact with the display as well, does it not?

What problem does it solve?

It seems to me like you are trying to use touch on the Mac without the use of a full touchscreen. Now some people may disagree, but many people are realizing that the touch bar is somewhat helpful but it really doesn’t drastically improve our day to day workflow.

Jump to 6:24

Both Sega and Nintendo experimented with something similar, a second screen which is housed in the controller as you play a game on your tv. They both seemed to mostly take away from the experience as attention was diverted thus hindering immersion. I suspect that the touch bar will have a very similar effect.

Don’t get me wrong, the touch bar certainly helps. It serves as an aide to an experience. That being said, users complain

As I said earlier, it is very evident that you have researched the concept of touch on the Mac.

Back in 2010, seven years ago, Steve Jobs said:

“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.”

It can be strenuous, yes, I get it. But why not give us the convenience, even if we don’t use it but 10% of the time?

As you can see, in Apple’s own video of the iPad Pro, and in other shots of people using it, people clearly do not mind touching a semi-vertical surface.

We see that you have even filed a patent the same year Steve Jobs gave that keynote for a touch-enabled iMac. We know it was looked into. We know it was researched. The answer was no then, but does it have to remain no?

One thing to keep in mind amidst all of this research is one ever-changing factor. Time. Over time, people’s ideas and habits change based on other products around them. The tools of the current day shape the way people perceive and use technology which has the likelihood to change over time. Just imagine if someone was handed an iPad Pro with its flat UI design back in the 3Gs days when skeuomorphic design was commonplace or even before the iPhone. Surely some of the same decisions that were made, would not be made the same way then. Why is this any different?

Tried and tested

At work we all have one or two Thunderbolt displays each. I myself am conscientious of people (including myself) touching my screen because one, these screens are too thin to be touched which can cause display imperfections and two, the glass is not fingerprint resistant so leaves fingerprints. Others are not of the same persuasion. I look at everyone’s display and they are covered with fingerprints which tells me that people are constantly touching their upright display.

Just as we see the iPad Pro being used upright, we can safely assume that people wouldn’t mind using a Mac in the same manner. If angle is an issue, it looks like you have thought that one through considering the patent that I mentioned earlier.

The competition

This is nothing new as you are aware. It is being done right now by Microsoft (of all companies), and it works, customers love it, first with their Surface Pro, then Surface Book, and finally their Surface Studio.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio

As Apple customers, we see this and feel left out, like we were short-changed, (even if touch on a Mac proved to be wildly unsuccessful).

So I have to ask, what provides more value to a professional designer, DJ, artist or film editor, a 28-inch touch screen computer or a MacBook Pro with a thin Touch Bar?

Touch-enabled macOS

I can’t really justify purchasing an iPad Pro as it is not drastically different from the iPad and I cannot get the same caliber application as I can on a Mac. I do love to draw though and would benefit from it in that regard. But this is where I and many others like myself are tempted by Microsoft’s Surface lineup. I don’t think I would ever do that because I enjoy how things in the Apple ecosystem work together so seamlessly, but that desire, though small is there.

After listening to several videos and hearing enough people saying the same thing I am saying now, I was curious.

So I spent a weekend and mocked up what macOS could look like if it were touch-enabled, taking many design cues and patterns from iOS. Note that the current cursor input would remain in addition to the new touchscreen input.

The user is presented with the login screen. They either touch TouchID or click or tap on their user image.
They are then presented with a familiar screen to login via a passcode or TouchID.
After logging in, they will see their desktop.
Slide your finger left or two fingers left on the trackpad to access your apps.
Slide down from the top of the screen, or three finger down on the trackpad to reveal notification center.
Page over to the left to see control center and other third party widgets
You can pin these widgets to the menubar
This is how a widget would look in your menubar. It would be applicable to third party developer apps as well.
This might be how Fnder looks
A menubar menu open
Multiple windows (showing inactive)
Fullscreen Finder
Fullscreen Finder with menu open
Fullscreen Atom
The Dock is revealed when the user moves their cursor to the bottom of the screen or swipes up from the bottom with their finger
Fullscreen Atom with menu open
Fullscreen Photoshop
Fullscreen Photoshop with menu open
Multitasking view

This was all done in a few hours, but you get the idea.

This would make way for further improvements to the OS, such as force touch and iOS app support (possibly), and automatically downloading apps that were downloaded on iOS, or tvOS.

I would like to spend more time and do a few renderings or videos of it in use, animations and all (if anyone is willing to help with this send me a tweet @austincondiff or contact me via my website

Thank you for your consideration. Have a great day.

Austin Condiff

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