Editorial: Recent patents uncovered by PatentlyApple, have suggested that Apple is considering adding touchscreen capabilities to its line of desktop and laptop computers. While the ideas shown in patents frequently do not make it to the manufacturing stage, the concept of touchscreen computers is not a new one. Apple have had the ability to integrate touchscreen functionality into its computers for a long time but it has chosen not to do so. Here’s why it would be a bad idea.
Firstly, it’s a question of ergonomics. Apple would have to release an iMac that could swivel down to a comfortable position for the user to touch. That in itself, as the patents have shown, is not a terribly difficult proposition but the concept that the user would have to ‘choose’ between the touch screen interface and the traditional keyboard and trackpad/mouse interface is flawed. Users don’t want to have to physically move a large iMac screen in order to use extra functionality, nor is there an easy way to incorporate this into laptops without the user making awkward gestures at the screen. Go ahead and try it for yourself. This would make switching between the two methods of interaction a fiddly and cumbersome procedure.
Where does the advantage come in making an OS and a desktop or laptop Mac multitouch compatible? With the launch of the Magic Trackpad and incorporation of trackpads across the MacBook line, users already essentially possess this functionality in a comfortable and efficient manner without having to physically change the arrangement of their display or reaching to touch their laptop screen. Oh, and by the way Apple, your oleophobic coating isn’t that shit-hot yet and I, for one, get pissed off with fingerprints on my screen. There is no conceivable improvement in this method of interaction with desktop and laptop computers. With the iPad and iPhone, both lacking a physical keyboard, this is a necessity. And it certainly isn’t a perfect method of interaction. Do we really want to extend those limitations into our desktops?
The introduction of touchscreen iMacs or MacBooks would also require a close integration of the OSX and iOS software, or the more simple adoption of certain iOS features into OSX. While this is simple enough for Apple to accomplish, I would propose a different approach.
I think that Apple should completely discount the idea of adding touchscreen functionality to their laptop and desktop computers. Period. But I do think they should throw all their weight and power behind developing a closer integration of iPads, iPhones, iPods and desktop machines. Not simply by making features that are common to both systems, but by increasing the interchangeability between systems, so that users don’t have to choose which to use. Instead, they can use them in parallel.
Frankly, many Apple customers have both an iPad/iPhone and an Apple desktop or laptop device. And currently, the only way of connecting these two devices is through a clunky cable and interfacing using the bugbear of all Apple users, iTunes. How about Apple enables the use of near field technology or syncing over wireless? And not just syncing, but allowing the two devices to work in perfect synergy, especially the iPad with the bigger screen. Imagine an ergonomically mounted iPad next to your iMac and seamless integration between the two devices. I’m not just talking about controlling your computer with Touchpad or some other App. I’m talking about working on both devices, that have complete compatibility with each other, with no chunky dragging and dropping of files and choosing what to share. Instead a recognition that if one device is running a program, the other can run a complementary program or another type of function that would enable the user to interact in a much more organic way (The Borg, take note).
If Apple did this, then it would tick many more of the boxes than simply adding touchscreen functionality to a Mac. The ergonomics are better, touchscreen functionality is improved and the speed of moving between touch and physical keyboard/mouse interaction is much quicker. Hell, the iPad could even be a the keyboard or trackpad with widgets or fast launch apps in place of function keys.
As we move into a world where mobile devices are becoming more and more powerful, is it not right that we choose to integrate them with our desktop computers in a better way than a USB cable and iTunes? I have no doubt that Apple will come up with a stylish way to add touchscreen capabilities to their desktop and laptop computers. I just hope that it is the right way.
If you wanna touch your screen then