New Ways to Interact with Mac

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Apple Introduces MacBook with Pro with Touch Bar

A couple of weeks ago we spoke of rumours that Apple has plans to revolutionize the standard QWERTY keyboard with the introduction of infinitely customizable keyboards using e-ink displays. During the launch of the new MacBook Pro Last week at Apple’s Cupertino, California event, they’ve possibly taken a step closer to that idea.

Yes, yes the new MacBook Pro is thinner, lighter, probably faster than its predecessor blah, blah, blah… What is really exciting and interesting is the introduction of a Touch Bar and no it’s not called the iTouch Bar:-P

So what is it? Basically a tiny strip-like OLED touch screen located above the numbers on the keyboard and powered by its own ARM processor, which is interesting in and of itself because there’s been a lot of speculation about when Apple might introduce a MacBook with an Apple designed ARM Processor.

While the new MacBook Pro can in no way claim to be ‘powered’ by an ARM processor, it’s inclusion and exclusive use for some tasks like handling security for the Touch ID sensor and Apple Pay dialogs may herald the possibility of a shift away from Intel Processors to Apple’s own custom designed processors.

The new Touch Bar is Mac OS’s first ever official foray into touch sensitive input. Apple has said that, while touch enabled MacBooks have been considered in the past, they do not believe that they would be particularly useful, which is true to an extent, especially for non-hybrid devices.

So what does it do?

Lots of things, lots of fun things… It displays different ‘buttons’ depending on what you’re doing. Watch a movie and symbols appear allowing volume adjustments, pause/play functions and more. If you’re the DJ at a house party, the Touch Bar changes into a mini DJ kit. Best of all, when you’re typing, the Touch Bar becomes filled with emojis, which are fun and fill otherwise dull text with emotion and life.

While the use and evolution of emojis predates Apple’s interest in them, in the last five years Apple has become a major supporter and influencer of the medium. They’ve made some great changes to emojis over the years making them friendlier and more fun.

Apple says, though, that the new Touch Bar does not herald a move toward fully touch enabled Macs. They don’t want to turn Mac OS into iOS or iOS into Mac OS. According to Apple, both are good at what they do for different reasons.

What will be interesting to see is the development of the technology, which will add new functionality without complicating everything like Window’s has gone and done with their metro apps interface. It’s also exciting to see what new functions will be delegated to the integrated ARM processors on MacBooks in the future.

The Touch Bar has received some criticism from Windows Fan Boys, claiming that a simple full touch screen would have been better. While we are fan boys of neither Apple nor Microsoft, we cannot help but disagree with these criticisms. In this instance, Apple’s decision to stay away from full touchscreens and complicated, idiotic UIs is commendable. So hopefully, in the future, Apple will showcase Macs with more touch functionality without letting the feature become a dysfunctional mess.