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Perpendicular Philosophy

Jason Snell:

Apple, in contrast, believes that touchscreen interfaces are great and computers are great and they’re not the same thing. Apple has steadfastly resisted adding touchscreens to the Mac, and when you ask the company’s executives why, they have been remarkably consistent on this point for the past few years.

What defines a computer, they’ll say, is that it’s made up of two perpendicular surfaces. There’s a vertical display surface, more or less up and down, right in front of you. And there’s a horizontal control surface—a table or desk or the base of a laptop—that you use for input and control. If you want a Mac, that’s what you get. If you want a touch-based device, get an iPad.

Seen through this philosophy, the new MacBook Pro and its Touch Bar interface fit perfectly. The Touch Bar brings the things Apple loves about touchscreen interfaces—customizability and support for multitouch—and adds it to the control surface of the Mac, right above the keyboard. It doesn’t break Apple’s definition of a computer at all, because it’s a new sort of touchscreen, and it’s part of the keyboard area, not the display area.

I don’t use a Mac as my daily computer anymore, and I don’t plan to switch from my iPad Pro, but the Touch Bar is the first change to the Mac line to pique my curiosity in years. Probably because it borrows from what makes iOS great.