Serious (but kind of rhetorical) question: do you use your Mac’s keyboard shortcuts, or do you tend to rely on the mouse/trackpad?
For those of us who are heavy keyboard users, losing Esc is a huge problem. I’ve also been tracking my usage since Apple’s event, and I use Esc dozens of times per hour, and always by touch (so a virtual replacement is useless). Putting aside the complaints of vi programmers, it’s first and foremost a systemwide function key used to:
- Dismiss browser popups
- Dismiss menus
- Cancel partially-typed web browser URLs
- Dismiss autocorrect suggestions
- Exit from a command-tab app switch
- Hide the web browser cursor
- Cancel a Finder drag-and-drop action
- Cancel changes to an input field in most apps
And this is just off the top of my head. I could go on for pages if I wanted to give it some thought. My point is: for a very large subset of serious Mac users, Esc is used all the time.
Even worse: based on Apple’s demos, it looks unlikely that the virtual Esc key will be available in all of those contexts. So yeah, there’s a virtual replacement—but it’s effectively a brand new function key, not Escape.