Even as Apple has blazed trails in forwarding multitouch as a bonafide interface for mobile devices, they have completely abstained from installing touchscreens on their MacBooks and iMac-lines, despite the fact that numerous competitors have jumped with both feet forward into the multitouch PC arena.
According to a recently discovered patent, though, Apple’s at least thinking about bringing multitouch to their desktop and laptop lines, detailing a touchscreen MacBook boasting iPhone-(and iMac)-like IPS display technology.
Here’s the thing: it’s not really hard to slap a touchscreen on a MacBook or iMac. The ModBook guys, for example, have been doing it for years. It isn’t a hardware challenge, it’s a software challenge: just look at the multitouch capable laptops and desktops running Windows 7 and you’ll see that, right now, multitouch displays are just an extraneous gimmick. There’s no reason to actually touch your display, outside of the novelty of doing so, because the operating systems and applications just aren’t built for it.
Apple’s not about to get gimmicky with their computers. As the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad prove, Apple’s serious about multitouch, but OS X is inherently mouse-driven, and so are their current experimentations with OS X multitouch. Apple’s smart enough to know that you can’t just slap a multitouch display on an operating system and have it be satisfying; it takes a major revision of the software driving a computer to make it a tangible user experience.
Here’s my prediction: the next version of OS X is going to be written largely around multitouch support to accommodate future touchscreen-equipped MacBooks and iMacs. I also expect this version of OS X to try to marry iOS with the operating system, perhaps Dashboard-widget style. There’s just too much money in iOS apps not to roll them out across all of their devices, and apps will give OS X a real reason to embrace multitouch non-frivolously.
Until the next version of OS X hits, though, we’re just not likely to see a touchscreen Mac. Snow Leopard isn’t ready for it yet.