After Steve Jobs came back to Apple, one of the first things he did was get rid of the long line of computers they had and reduced it to a 2×2 grid: left was home, right was work, top was laptop, bottom was desktop. And so there came four computers: iMac, Macbook, Mac Pro, and Macbook Pro. It was a very clear distinction.
It hasn’t been that long since his passing, and we’re back to having a long line of products without a clear purpose for any. It may be the case that the touchbar is a brilliant invention and I just don’t realize how yet. Or, it may be the case that it’s a gimmick and will hinder performance. We’ll have to wait and see.
I love OS X. And I LOVE my Macbook Pro. I was very excited to see the next update. But, instead of a dedication to making an efficient computing machine, we get a touchbar with basically the same specs that we had before. I’m concerned that when it comes time to buy my next computer, the MBP won’t be the obvious choice that it once was.
In particular, I use VIM a lot. The missing escape key is going to be brutal. Additionally, I’m a touch typist, and I feel my way across the function keys. They’re used throughout Xcode and Matlab, two products widely used in the scientific community. If they’re gone, it’s going to be painful. By placing a changing touchscreen on the keyboard, Mac is forcing us to look at the keyboard. But I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to not do that so that I could be more efficient in my work.
Here’s another scenario I’m concerned about. Suppose I’m debugging code, so I’m pressing F6 or F7 hundreds of times in a row with little thought and watching the cursor progress through my code, and someone calls me. All of a sudden, my F7 button becomes a hang-up button and I hang up.
Just the fact that they’re not actual keys will let my fingers drift from key to key (I think). Have you tried to type with an iPad? I have, and I make many more mistakes than I do with a regular keyboard. The physical keys help me keep my fingers stay in the right spots.
Suppose they had made the entire keyboard a touchscreen? How easy would typing be? The screen could change for every application, so you’d get customizability, which may help with some applications. But for touch typists, it’d be exactly like typing on an iPad, which is hard. For those of us that use the function keys, we’re about to go through a minor version of that.