The 2016 MacBook Pros with Touch Bar

Iteration versus Evolution

It’s been interesting to watch as many IT/Computing authorities have reacted with negativity towards the new MacBook Pro range of notebooks from Apple. Specifically, Apple is generally being criticized for not having taken a big enough step with this next generation of the devices, and is now being lapped by other industry leaders including Microsoft.I’ll qualify these brief comments by saying that I did make the prediction quite some time ago that within 5 years of Satya Nadella taken then helm, Microsoft would once again be challenging Apple for consumer mind and market share. However, my sense is that the criticism being leveled is coming from those that naturally think in terms of “iteration”, and does not reflect a true understanding of experience design. 

For me, for example, the Touch Bar concept on the new MacBook Pros is not a poor compromise for a full touch display as found on many Windows 10 notebooks. Far from it. I’ve watched Windows 10-based colleagues use their full touch displays, and it appears far from an elegant experience at times. The hand/arm motion from keyboard to screen does not look fluid, the display pushes back as force is applied, and this is not saying anything of the interface that has been “touch optimized” (but may not be ideal for a precision application).

Remember, Apple was the company that brought Touch Computing to every diffusion segment, from early adopter to laggard. If Apple wanted to build a full touch-screen MacBook Pro, this would have been one of their easier decisions. So why didn’t they?

Because they’re being good designers, I suspect. They’ve deeply considered where and how “touch” might fit into a more demanding computing environment, and they’ve come up with Touch Bar- a solution which is extremely ergonomic, is context sensitive, and preserves the potentially more detailed on-screen interface. As someone who spends quite a bit of time on his iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro, this really does speak to me.

Let me again reassure that this is not Apple Fanboy talk; I love Microsoft and use many of their solutions every day. However, I appreciate when companies like Apple don’t take the easy path when designing products, but apply their expertise to truly take an experience forward. My initial impression is that this is what has been done with Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pros.

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