In an interview with CNET, Jony Ive said that his team had rejected a touchscreen Mac ‘many, many years ago.’ He did, though, suggest that Apple is working on other concepts in this general area, beyond the Touch Bar.
Asked why a touchscreen Mac would be inappropriate, Ive said:
For a bunch of practical reasons. It’s difficult to talk [laughs] without going into a lot of details that puts me starting to talk about things that we are working on. I don’t really want to talk much more about it.
We of course think we know one of those things already …
Sonder Keyboard, the company behind e-ink keyboard with contextually-changing labels, confirmed earlier this month that it has been in discussions with Apple. Ive said no more than the above and that the Touch Bar ‘is the beginning of a very interesting direction.’
Ive explained that Apple had opted for the Touch Bar after exploring a number of possible approaches, taking several of them to prototype stage before real-life use determined which concept offered the greatest value.
There’s a number of designs that we explored that conceptually make sense. But then when we lived on them for a while, sort of pragmatically and day to day, [they] are sometimes less compelling. This is something [we] lived on for quite a while before we did any of the prototypes. You really notice or become aware [of] something’s value when you switch back to a more traditional keyboard.
This did, he said, take a lot of work, as it was important to create a prototype close enough to the final product to provide realistic feedback from users.
One of the things that remains quite a big challenge for us is that you have to prototype to a sufficiently sophisticated level to really figure out whether you’re considering the idea, or whether what you’re really doing is evaluating how effective a prototype is.
Ive said that ‘thinking different’ – the famous Apple slogan – is actually pretty easy, but that it’s less easy to create something that makes sense.
We learned more about the Touch Bar on Friday through Apple’s developer documentation. Developers can, in theory, do almost anything they like with the bar, but Apple has guidelines that call for it to display peaceful relatively-static UI based on the current task.