macOS Big Sur does not pave the way for a touchscreen Mac

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macOS Big Sur offers a lot, but not a touchscreen Mac.
macOS Big Sur isn’t the first step toward a touchscreen Mac.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s head of software development threw cold water on speculation that macOS Big Sur was designed with a touchscreen Mac in mind.

Instead, Craig Federighi says the latest Mac operating system is more similar to iOS and iPadOS so it’s easier for users to switch between an Apple laptop, phone or tablet. Designers weren’t thinking about a touch-based Mac.

No touchscreen Mac is in development

macOS Big Sur includes significant design changes, and some of these have been taken to mean that Apple is planning to add touchscreen support to Mac. There’s more space between some onscreen objects, for example, making them  fingertip friendly. And features of iPadOS like the Control Panel jumped to Mac, too.

Apparently, the theory that macOS Big Sur is a stepping stone to a Mac with a touchscreen surprised Federighi. “I gotta tell you, when we released Big Sur, and these articles started coming out saying, ‘Oh my God, look, Apple is preparing for touch,’ I was thinking like, ‘Whoa, why?’” the Apple SVP told The Independent.

Apple’s chief of software engineering asserts these changes are to improve esthetics. “We had designed and evolved the look for macOS in a way that felt most comfortable and natural to us, not remotely considering something about touch,” said Federighi.

Bringing to Mac some features of iOS and iPadOS is all about making switching between devices easier.

“I’ve never felt more comfortable moving across our family of devices as a user, which I do hundreds of times a day, than I do now, moving between iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and macOS Big Sur,” said the Apple exec. “They all just feel of a family — there’s just less cognitive load to the switching process.”

A rumor that keeps popping up

Rumors and speculation that Apple will make a touchscreen Mac pop up periodically, despite the company frequently dismissing the idea.

In November 2019, Phil Schiller, who was Apple’s SVP of marketing at the time, said Apple wasn’t investing time on adding touchscreen support to macOS. “That engineering effort is better spent on making the Mac be the best keyboard-trackpad experience possible,” Schiller said. “That’s what our customers want us to spend our time on.”