According to reports, Apple is actively working on touchscreen Macs.

Surprised?

Me too.

This news comes from Mark Gurman who, to be fair, has a pretty accurate record when it comes to Apple leaks and rumours.

It still feels wrong, though.

So, let’s unpick this story and try and work out whether or not we really are going to touch MacBook displays in the future and leave more than greasy fingerprints.

Touchscreen Macs – the latest rumours

Gurman’s report is rather thin in detail. All he tells us is that Apple is “working on adding touch screens to its Mac computers”, and that Apple engineers are “actively engaged in the project”.

He goes on to say that a launch hasn’t been finalised and that the company’s plans for touchscreen Macs could change. Although, 2025 is noted as a potential release date, as part of a larger update to the MacBook Pro line.

That’s all we know. There is, curiously, no mention of what this could mean for macOS or the possible convergence of Apple’s desktop operating system and iOS.

As rumours go, this is about as thin as they come, but it has, understandably, prompted a raft of responses and similar reports online.

Hey, look what you’re reading right now!

Clearly, there’s a thirst for touchscreen Macs, even if from nothing more than a point of extreme curiosity.

“Ergonomically terrible”

“We’ve done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work.”

Those were the words of Steve Jobs in 2010 during the launch of the new MacBook Air and Mac OS X Lion. He was referring to Apple’s decision to leave all touch gestures for its desktop operating system on the trackpad or Magic Mouse.

Clearly, Apple had no desire whatsoever back then to make its MacBooks (or iMacs, for that matter) touch-compatible – Jobs even described the premise as “ergonomically terrible”. It was about as likely as one day being able to buy an Apple-branded stylus.

Ahem.

Tim Cook’s appraisal of touchscreen laptops was even more brutal two years later when he responded to Microsoft’s plans for what would eventually become the Microsoft Surface platform.

“You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator,” he said, “but it won’t please anyone.”

Ouch.

Didn’t stop Microsoft though, did it?

My experience with touchscreen laptops

I’ve got a touchscreen laptop in my studio. Granted, it boots to a blue screen at the moment rather than anything remotely resembling an operating system (because, Windows) but I did have plenty of time to try out the display on my Surface Laptop 4.

I really liked it! In fact, the ability to ‘touch’ Windows felt entirely natural and not at all forced. It was a genuine surprise.

I found myself reaching out to close apps with my finger, or to tap confirmation buttons. And no, Steve (god rest your soul), my arm never felt like it was about to “fall off”.

Whenever I return to a MacBook after spending significant time using my iPad and Magic Keyboard combo, I occasionally have to stop myself from reaching for the display. It takes just a millisecond to realise what I’m doing, but there are, clearly, habits forming (thanks, ironically, to the iPad’s ability to mimic a laptop).

I don’t miss that touch screen Windows laptop (because, Windows), but I can see how it would quickly become the norm for me. More importantly, it never felt gimmicky, and Windows was admirably well set up to cope with touch input.

What I’d like to see from a touchscreen Mac

There are so many ways Apple could get this wrong.

They could, firstly, slap a biblically stupid premium on the price tag for a touchscreen Mac. That wouldn’t work and would only serve to further irritate the increasing number of people who believe Apple stuff is fast becoming unaffordable.

They could ignore the changes required to macOS, too. As it stands, it’s just about the most un-touch-friendly operating system out there.

Despite this, some of the controls and user interface elements have increased in size over the years, and the latest iteration of Control Center looks suspiciously touch-ready.

It needs to go further, though. There are still far too many elements of macOS that would be an absolute pain in the backside to touch with your fingers.

I think the answer is, I’m afraid, to converge that toaster and refrigerator, Tim.

We’ve heard countless times from several Apple execs that macOS and iOS will never fully intertwine. However, they continue to inspire one another, and, as a result, share many features.

But, true to Apple’s word, macOS and iOS are still two very distinct operating systems.

The changes required to macOS feel too far-reaching to be palatable for Apple – particularly given their no-holds-barred public stance on touchscreen computers thus far. Simply ‘making everything a bit bigger’ won’t cut it.

Apple already has the best touch-based operating system on the market with iOS. iPadOS is, arguably, the macOS-inspired spin-off of the iPhone’s operating system, but, once again, it simply doesn’t go far enough and remains insufficient for die-hard macOS fans.

We need something smack-bang in the middle. Hands-up – I have absolutely no idea what that would look like or how Apple would differentiate it from iPadOS, but maybe that’s the point – perhaps iPadOS is the linchpin here.

Could there be more to this than meets the eye? Is the drawn-out development path for iPadOS and the seeming lack of desire to move Apple-branded pro apps to that platform hiding a far bigger agenda?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Final thought – when will we see a touchscreen Mac?

I’m not convinced we will. Gurman’s report is so light on detail that it barely constitutes a rumour.

It’s fun to talk about, though. As noted above, I think the iPad is where Apple ultimately sees the future of lap-based computing. But that is far, far away; we’re not going to see iPads replace Macs for many years.

It will happen, though. That saddens me as much as the next Mac fan, but I think it’s an inevitability, and does solve the ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ debate surrounding touchscreen Macs.

What do you think? Get involved in the comments!

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