MacBook Pro’s new Touch Bar is powered by iOS


macbook pro touch bar
I bet you didn't know that!
Photo: Apple

One thing Apple didn’t tell us during its big MacBook Pro unveiling on Thursday is that its new machine runs iOS. However, it’s not quite the iOS you’re already used to.

Instead, Apple’s mobile operating system is there solely to power the MacBook Pro’s new OLED Touch Bar.

In actual fact, the Touch Bar runs a modified version of watchOS, which itself is a modified version of iOS. It’s powered by Apple’s new T1 chipset, and it runs independently of macOS Sierra, which is used by the rest of the machine.

“Touch Bar runs watchOS, and macOS sends it framebuffer data over USB,” explains iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith. “This presumably then relays multitouch events back to macOS.”

Troughton-Smith also explains that the T1 chip uses ARM architecture — like the chips in our iOS devices — and also manages the security of things like Touch ID, the Touch Bar, and even the MacBook Pro’s front-facing FaceTime camera.

It’s thought Apple chose a modified version of watchOS because the T1 chip is similar to the new S1 chip found in the latest Apple Watch. Theoretically, the Touch Bar could be active while macOS and the MacBook Pro’s own CPU are off.

It’s incredibly interesting that Apple is running watchOS and macOS side-by-side like this, rather than just making the Touch Bar’s operating system an extension of the former. It makes us wonder whether the company will take things a step further in the future.

One possible route Apple could take is to make an entire display that uses iOS, which could allow for a 2-in-1 notebook with a detachable tablet display like the Microsoft Surface Book. However, it seems highly unlikely a device like this is in Apple’s plans.

Via: Boy Genius Report

  • CelestialTerrestrial

    That probably explains the added costs. It’s the OLED bar itself, the TouchID sensor, the added electronics. I can see that adding a few hundred to the MSRP just to have those features.

  • Ian Weir

    Well why don’t they just incorporate the iPad into a hybrid MBP if they are going this route. Seems like it is obvious that in the future we will see this if both iOS and the MBP OS’s are on the same machine.

    • Greg_the_Rugger

      More likely, the ipad will be an extended desktop display to allow you to doodle some graphic and while performing hard-core production work on the laptop/desktop. You can view an manipulate graphics on the iPad while typing up specs and requirements. Much easier than using a mouse and expands your work environment.

  • Jones

    I’d predict this to mean apple plans to roll out a new desktop keyboard more than an iOS/macOS portable.

  • Bruce Chapman

    In regard to my hope that the Touch ID will be an alternative to passwords, I would like to know if it will support third party apps/programs.

    • Steven Sutherland

      Sure, 1password is already working on an integration.

  • Sashimi

    i did find the power to add a dedicated chip, controller, independent OS, OLED touch bar… but not to power extra ram? design before usability…