And I actually was indeed referring to what you call the multimedia function keys. Brightness (both screen and keyboard backlight), volume, iTunes playback. These are the keys whose accessibility is in certain scenarios is undeniably complicated for casual users — the keys also that Lisa Gade and the figure I mention both found to be confusing and inconvenient. This isn’t necessarily essential to workflow, but it falls firmly under the rubric of everyday use and interaction, which is not exclusive with workflow. And both in my article and in my response to you — although more space is given to professionals in creative and digital media — I am also hitting upon everyday usage and casual users.
I see. With these fixed-position buttons the Touchbar really hasn’t that much to offer. Although I have to say that Apple blew it with the multimedia keys multiple times before. I remember using the three exposé buttons extensively–until I bought a new Mac, and those three functions were compressed into one single function button in combination with the CMD and option buttons (and all other multimedia keys were reshuffled for no apparent reason). Never understood which button combination triggers which exposé behavior, and in any case it requires two hands as opposed to before. So–Apple can screw this up even with physical keys. ;-)
But you mentioned that some users connect external keyboards to their MBPs, and that the rest of the industry likely won’t adopt this Touchbar concept. Well, multimedia keys aren’t standardized, either. So when you use a Logitech or a Microsoft or a Dell keyboard, the multimedia keys are different from those on the Apple keyboards. When you switch between keyboards from different manufacturers, don’t you have to hunt and peek anyway?
About the users you speak of, the pro’s pros, who can boast mastery of the keyboard and so on: they really aren’t as rare as you are making out. Even the youngest/most novice professional I interviewed and observed, who is ~1.5 yrs into her profession, effortlessly navigated the keyboard, including all her commands both default and custom (hotkey commands involving the function keys), without glancing down from her screen. This is considered normal. And these industries/professionals are also really not so marginal as you make them sound.
Fair enough. When I see the Touchbar, I don’t think at all about the multimedia functions, but about the other, app-specific functions that are possible. Ages ago, f1 opened a help window, and the other function buttons had similar functions. You just don’t know which—if any—function is mapped to these buttons. On a full-size keyboard this is even worse. Until now, half of those function keys were reused as multimedia keys, but it was a workaround. Now this space can be reconfigured for more appropriate buttons. I think the potential is great, even if the current execution might be lacking.
There might even be a usability advantage compared to keyboard shortcuts. Imagine a scenario where one hand is on the mouse or touchpad, and the other on the keyboard—some keyboard shortcuts require two hands or at least very stretchable fingers. If the same function could instead be triggered by one simple Touchbar button … maybe that’s an improvement? I think it’s too early to judge the Touchbar, and I don’t think it’s so cut and dry whether this is a good interface or not. I think it’s somewhat similar to 3D touch on the iPhone: the technology has potential, but it’s the software implementation that counts. 3D touch hasn’t really taken off because of usability problems (discoverability—when is it available and what would it do?), and similarly the Touchbar will only work if the implementation is perfect. Apparently it’s not, yet.
And as for your bit about the financial quarters and so on — I think you answered your own question, to be honest. Gains YOY aren’t always a good thing. Apple’s stock has dropped before on objectively “good” news. The previous year, for example, saw no MBP releases, and there were understandably high projections (not met, I don’t think) for the launch of the first truly new model in ~4 years (an eternity for this kind of thing).
I don’t think Apple’s stock is a good representation of their state at all; but these are sales numbers, so I think they do represent popularity among users. One might argue that the sales numbers following the launch of the MBP should have been even higher, and that’s fine. My point was merely that the narrative that the MBP put a dent in Apple’s image and was even the reason for a drop in market share is not backed up by sales numbers. Apple did not lose market share because of the new MBP. Clearly not.