The problem with touch screen laptops, as Apple has always held, is ergonomics. Arms get fatigued using vertical touch screens… And if Apple made a convertible, THEN you’d have cannibalism.
Touch Bar is a compromise between a soft keyboard and a tactile keyboard. I’m sure Apple is envisioning a time where each physical key (perhaps a Force Touch plate with “keys” engraved on it or something) is it’s own tiny screen for contextual purposes. But the fact remains, people still touch type, so there has to be some physical divisions between keys/rows.
So, as a compromise, meaning retention of physical keys with the added versatility of context aware soft keys, I think it’s great.
And another key in the “it’s not a gimmick” argument, is that Apple is being very strict about implementation, preventing “gimmicky” things from being done with it. It is not a second screen, it is a touch input device first and foremost.
I’m sure a lot of it boils down to use-case scenarios as well as whether apps in a particular user’s workflow have adopted worthwhile functionality with it. I don’t have one myself, but I do know that many of my go-to apps (Ulysses, Photos, Safari, 1Password, most Apple default apps) of choice have already added strong and useful implementations that give me feature envy.
Also, I’m a longtime and very frequent ios user, probably more so than macOS these days (because my Macs are aging), and I’ve gotten quite spoiled by things like QuickType suggestions, the newer Little in-keyboard toolbars and such, and that functionality is essentially replicated by Touch Bar, making transitioning between the two os’es less jarring.