Here’s why Apple will never give MacBook a touchscreen

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macbook pro
The new MacBook Pro is stunner.
Photo: Apple

Desktop computers aren’t going away any decade soon. Not if Jony Ive and Phil Schiller have to say anything about it.

In an interview with Ive, Schiller and Magic Man Craig Federighi, Apple’s team of vets explain that they don’t plan to ever morph the iPad and Mac together to make a Frankenstein desktop tablet like the Surface Studio.


Jony Ive insists that a touchscreen on the Mac wouldn’t be “particularly useful” in the CNet interview that reveals the new Touch Bar was in development for two years.

No TouchBook Pro

“We did spend a great deal of time looking at this a number of years ago and came to the conclusion that to make the best personal computer, you can’t try to turn MacOS into an iPhone,” Schiller says. “Conversely, you can’t turn iOS into a Mac…. So each one is best at what they’re meant to be — and we take what makes sense to add from each, but without fundamentally changing them so they’re compromised.”

The new Touch Bar appears to be Apple’s first bridge, of sorts, between iOS and macOS. By adding dynamic keys, the Touch Bar makes apps more touch-friendly and easier to navigate. A touch-based version of macOS may seem like the inevitable step, but Schiller says it would be wreck.

“It is great to provide two different ways to solve some of the same things, but they also do very unique things that the other doesn’t,” said Phil Schiller. “Having them separate allows us to explore both, versus trying to force them into one — and only one — model.”

Despite killing the idea of touchscreen MacBook, Jony Ive teased that the new feature marks the beginning of some exciting new forms of computing.

“We didn’t want to just create a speed bump on the MacBook Pro,” he says. “In our view this is a big, big step forward. It is a new system architecture, and it allows us to then create many things to come, things that we can’t envision yet.”

  • No stylus.
    No physical keyboard.
    Ever.
    Yeah yeah we’ve all heard that before.

    It’s coming eventually. Maybe in 5 years.

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      They have a patent for a new Pencil and TrackPad that will do what you’re talking about, but I don’t know If they will do that. But they do have a couple of patents for that type of functionality.

    • David Kaplan

      they have yet to make a stylus… it’s a pencil….. it’s used for artistic endeavors such as drawing not navigation…

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        From Wikipedia: “The Apple Pencil is a digital stylus pen that works as an input device for the iPad Pro tablet computer”

        The Apple Pencil it is not a pencil any more than the MacBook is a book. A pencil is “an instrument for writing or drawing, consisting of a thin stick of graphite or a similar substance enclosed in a long thin piece of wood or fixed in a metal or plastic case.” The Apple Pencil is a pressure-sensitive, angle-sensitive stylus and it most certainly can be used for navigation as it is on the iPad Pro.

      • player911

        The Pencil requires a special screen that will not work on the MacBook pro.

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        Yes, I am aware of that. I was addressing his inaccurate claim that the Apple Pencil is not a stylus.

  • Allen Mac

    I am glad they are sticking with no touchscreen laptop for the desktop OS.

    MS is extremely aggressive on that and it seems to impress me more and more.

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      The problem is that if you use the product in typical laptop mode, it’s a pain in the rear from an ergonomic standpoint, so you have to take the unit and switch it to tablet mode and orient it flat on a table. See how the Surface Studio works? You have to put it more flat. For a large screen like that to reach all four corners, it’s kind of a pain. Yeah, it’s cool, but I don’t know how practical, some will use it and some won’t. Plus, you’ll need a lot of screen cleaner and you will be constantly cleaning the screen due to fingerprints/grime, etc.

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        You are absolutely correct. There was a study done at the University of Maryland many years ago and it revealed that users were loathe to take their hands off of keyboards and mice to use computer touchscreens. When users were given an option to use a keyboard, mouse, or touchscreen, researchers found that the users overwhelmingly chose to avoid the touchscreen (once the novelty of it wore off).

        You are also correct about the disgusting mess it makes of a screen to put oily, dirty fingerprints all over it. I’d never want a touchscreen laptop.

  • Trent Wilbanks

    Touchscreen laptops are awesome! Already opted for two instead of another MacBookPro and paid less than half the cost of one MacBookPro for BOTH!!!

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      And they are probably anemic since you can’t get a top end laptop for that kind of money.

      • Trent Wilbanks

        The cheapest MacBookPro is no more powerful (not top end) and is more than twice the price of both my rouchscreens combined.

    • Storm

      Which touchscreen laptops did you buy?

      • Trent Wilbanks

        Acer and HP.

    • Facts Appear Directly Below

      Touchscreen laptops are only awesome to someone who likes staring at fingerprints all over the screen — and who is wiling to be less productive, less accurate, and less comfortable in order to “enjoy” the novelty of a touchscreen. Ergonomic studies have proven what I say to be true, with one noting “greater biomechanical stress and discomfort [likely] attributable to greater or more frequent arm and hand movement in floating arm postures.”

      • Trent Wilbanks

        So, you’re too lazy to raise your arms and you must not own any other touchscreen device such as an iPad or iPhone as it sounds like you’re too lazy to clean screens and/or keep your hands clean as well.

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        I’m citing peer-reviewed ergonomic studies done by researchers and you’re spewing insults like some child on a playground.

        Humans have water, salt, oils, and dead skin cells on their skin no matter how OCD they are about washing. They also get contaminants on their hands in their day-to-day activities (operating door knobs, holding handrails, operating keypads, gripping steering wheels, and so on). People slough off dead skin cells. I worked in a cleanroom in aerospace and saw numerous documents and presentations on this matter, which is probably why I know so more about this topic than you do. If someone touched flight hardware, they did so through nitrile gloves for obvious reasons.

        The ergonomics of tablet and phone usage are much different than the ergonomics of using a computer with a nearly vertical screen on a desk, so your comments about iPads and iPhones are without merit.

        I can tell that this is an emotional topic for you, but that doesn’t change the result of numerous studies conducted since the 1980s.

      • Trent Wilbanks

        LOL! Just call ’em like I see ’em. Apparently struck a nerve here. LOL! I have no problem lifting my arms or keeping my “verticle” screen clean.

      • bIg hIlL

        He only said you were lazy, don’t see that as “spewing insults like some child on a playground”, which is actually more insulting insinuation.

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        Perhaps you don’t find it insulting to be accused of gross levels of laziness to the point of it being an impediment to personal hygiene, but I do.

      • Brandon Shoemake

        I think perhaps you have an OCD…. Yes, IBM did conduct those studies along with just about everyone else in the business at the time. We found that users could interact with icons and photos more intuitively, and learned to manipulated page turns, window manipulations, etc.. But they did not like the idea of typing on the screens we had at the time. Obviously, display screens and their capabilities have changed quite a bit since then.

      • Facts Appear Directly Below

        I think perhaps you have ADD if you assume an ability to stay on topic for more than 15 minutes is a sign of an OCD.

        The studies to which I refer did not involve on-screen keyboards. They gave users the ability to operate on-screen buttons and menus using a mouse, keyboard shortcut, or touchscreen. After the novelty of the touchscreen wore off, users showed a marked aversion to the touchscreen.

        Contemporary ergonomic studies have shown significant issues with long-term use of touchscreens on desktop computers, including stress-related injuries of the hands, arms, and back. Others have shown significant productivity decreases with touchscreens, attributable to motion time and inaccuracy associated with operating on-screen controls that are significantly smaller than the users’ fingers.

        While screens may have changed quite a bit since you were last involved in any of the studies, human physiology has not.

  • marsofearth

    I only hope the quality has increased. I have owned 3 MacBooks with no problems, 2 MacBook Air’s with No problems, but every one of my 4 MacBook Pros I have owned have ended in Pieces after the warranty gave up. I can also look around at 5 iMacs in my office, that have either logic board, video card, Capacitors, or screen faults… un fortunately, my 2015 27″ 5k iMac which I am typing on right now, also has a hardware issue. It randomly crashes. It is getting really hard to suggest a Mac to anyone that does not absolutely need one.

    • Skip

      Dude, how dedicated are you in giving money to Apple?

      • marsofearth

        I am dedicated to making money, and computers are my tools for work. I did not mention all the PC’s in my office because that is not part of this discussion.

    • WP

      After really enjoying the iPhone and iPad, I decided to spend more than the price of my first car and try a 17″ Macbook Pro back in early 2011 – – that turned out to be such a horrible experience with the video/logic board issues and repairs and refunds, etc. If I ever decide to try another Apple laptop, it will have to be one of the cheapest models available….

      • marsofearth

        Really painful, sorry to hear your experience. Biggest troubling thing is that more and more professionals are are sounding out. Apple has become the new Microsoft unfortunately.

  • Vince Collier

    No, we won’t give you a Pencil driven Macbook so Creatives can get what they’ve been BEGGING for… we’re going to copy an Android feature off the LG & Samsung phones, that never really has taken off, and charge you $1000 more for a Laptop that has no upgradeability, underpowered RAM and you’re going to need all kinds of dongles to run your existing equipment… Oh… and you’re still going to spend $400-$2500 MORE to be able to use a stylus by purchasing ANOTHER piece of equipment. (Or you can by ONE portable or ONE desktop with it all built in to one unit by other companies that actually listened to what you want but you have to suffer through Windows…) Soooooooo disappointed in Apple since Jobs death…

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      Jobs wouldn’t have done things that much differently, so I don’t know what you’re complaining about.

      If I were a Creative that used a Stylus, I would get a workstation MacPro or high end laptop MBPR and then use one of the iPad Pros (either one) as a graphics tablet instead of buying the Cintiq. The problem with the PC 2in1’s is they really are too thick, heavy for a tablet, and in laptop mode, I wouldn’t be using the screen since it’s oriented vertically.. I have a friend with a 2 in 1, and changing it from laptop to tablet mode is kind of a pain in the ass, and Windows 10 really sucks as a tablet OS. It’s awful. I had nothing but a really bad experience trying to do the most simpliest of tasks. It’s just a crap OS.

      • player911

        Windows does suck as a Tablet OS. However it is constantly getting better at it. I’ve gone through a few Windows 10 tablets. Recently got a Surface Pro. It is thick and heavy but it is also a full fledged PC. I had an HP that was much thinner and lighter, but also used a lighter processor, which still worked for what I needed it for with no problem.

        At least you have options. And you don’t have to use Windows. There are a ton of Linux varieties out there. If you can find proper drivers, you can even install MacOS on there.

  • Everyone’s Horrible 2016

    Touchscreen laptops are awful

    • marsofearth

      I like them. You don’t need to touch the screen to use them, but you can if you want too.

  • dbg

    Microsoft should have called the Surface Dial the Surface Puck, because clearly it’s not on Apple’s court anymore

    • CelestialTerrestrial

      The Dial is an interesting product, Griffin has a similar product for several years that is used on Macs. it’s Powermate Bluetooth. So, Microsoft kind of did their own variation of the Powermate.

  • Skip

    Why give consumers something they want when you can con them into buying something dumb?

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    From the sounds of it, they are probably going to come out with a new keyboard with the TouchBar to be used on iMacs, and other new desktops where they will put the T1 chip.

    I think Apple should just be adding the TouchBar to all Macs, but they are probably EVENTUALLY going to do that when the costs come down. It’s too bad they didn’t add the TouchID button to the non-TouchBar MBPR.

  • Marc Duchesne

    Touchscreen on a laptop (or desktop) : Awful. Tiresome. Messy. Apple is 100% right on that one.
    My take : The next iMac is to be a pure flat screen, paired with a smart, touchscreen keyboard.
    Put in other words, an Apple TV set coupled with an iPad.

  • Kevin W. Sayers

    There’s just something about the TouchPad that feels Atari 2600 to me . . . plus, what “Pro” about shortcuts to emojis? Either I’m losing it or Apple’s losing it. (could be both, lol)

  • Rafterman00

    If a touch screen isn’t “particularly useful”, then how is a smaller touch bar useful?

    I get the idea of a customizable function bar row – get rid of the less used keys and make it your own. That is kind of cool. But Apple was portraying it as a work area and it’s too small to be that in most cases.

    • RSIlluminator

      Spot on.

      They essentially put in a separate touchscreen into the macbook. The difference is that now the user will have to take their eyes off of the main screen to look at something that’s quite small. For anyone who dislikes the idea of a touchscreen, at least they keep all the tools in the same location.

    • Facts Appear Directly Below

      Because the touch bar is adjacent to the keyboard and much more accessible. Ergonomic studies that show that users don’t like removing their hands from keyboards to operate touchscreens.

      Imagine moving all of your number keys from the top of the keyboard to the top of your touchscreen monitor. How would that affect your productivity?