Not many developers bother to write their applications specifically for the Macintosh computer. But there are hundreds of thousands of iOS apps that can potentially make those new Macs much more valuable. It will be a no-brainer for developers to submit these to the Mac App Store so desktop and notebook users can dive deep into the “there’s an app for that” world. The only apps that can’t be instantly moved to Mac are ones that access hardware found only on mobile devices, like gyroscopes and other sensors. (Developers can use an existing technology called Catalyst to do some work to port those apps to the desktop environment.)
To me, this portends another change. For years, Apple has been firmly maintaining one hard distinction between iOS and MacOS—multitouch technology on the display. “From the ergonomic standpoint, we have studied this pretty extensively, and we believe that on a desktop scenario, where you have a fixed keyboard, having to reach up to do touch interfaces is uncomfortable,” Apple’s senior VP of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, told me in 2015 when I was writing about the iMac. A year later, when Apple introduced the touch bar on the Macbook Pro, he also made it clear that, while Apple wanted to add iPhone powers like Siri or voice dictation to its computers, its notebook displays would be hands-off. “It’s certainly not on the horizon right now,” he said. Officially, Apple still holds this position.
But after watching this year’s WWDC keynote, I now feel in my bones that Apple will eventually introduce touchscreens to at least some of its notebooks, despite its insistence to this day that this move is not in the cards. Let me enumerate why: First, with the introduction of the same silicon infrastructure of its iOS devices, Macs will be touch-tech ready. Second, the aforementioned migration of iOS apps to the Mac. Third, with its iPad Pro, Apple is already promoting the idea of lifting your fingers from a keyboard to swipe and pinch a display. When snug in its keyboard cradle, the iPad feels very much like an actual laptop—and you have on-screen touch control. Finally, competitors are already doing it, and many users love it.
If Apple does introduce multitouch technology to its notebooks, it won’t be the first time the company turns around and does something it vowed it wouldn’t do. Remember when Apple said no one wanted phones that were bigger than your palm? The explanation for the 180 will be one Apple always loves to invoke for such reversals: We figured out how to do it right.
The only question is: Will it be safe to attend the Steve Jobs Theater when that day comes? I pray that the answer is yes.
In October 2015, while writing for Backchannel (then a Medium publication), I got a rare look at the Input Design Lab where Apple develops its new Macintosh models. As part of that story, Phil Schiller gave me his Grand Unified View of Apple devices: