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Phil Schiller Explains Apple’s Motivation Behind the Touch Bar

The first reviews of the MacBook Pros with Touch Bars have begun to hit the web. In connection with his review of the new laptops on Backchannel, Steven Levy spoke to Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, about the motivation behind the Touch Bar and recent criticisms leveled against Apple’s new MacBook Pros.

Levy raised the perennial question of why Apple didn’t just make a touchscreen MacBook Pro. In response, Schiller told Levy it’s not possible to design for a pointing device like a touchpad or mouse and a touchscreen without designing to the lowest common denominator:

“Our instincts were that it didn’t [make sense to do a touchscreen], but, what the heck, we could be wrong—so our teams worked on that for a number of times over the years,” says Schiller. “We’ve absolutely come away with the belief that it isn’t the right thing to do. Our instincts were correct.”

Schiller also bristled at the suggestion by Levy that the Touch Bar represents what Levy characterized as the ‘overall annexation of the Macintosh platform’ by iOS. Schiller responded that the Touch Bar:

“…is pure Mac,” he said. “The thought and vision from the very beginning was not at all, ‘How do we put iOS in the Mac?’ It was entirely, ‘How to you use the [iOS] technology to make a better Mac experience?’”

I look forward to trying the Touch Bar. With it only available on one line of laptops, it remains to be seen how widely it will be supported by third-party developers, but what I’ve seen planned for Adobe’s products, Sketch, 1Password, and other apps makes me optimistic.

There’s a fine line between whether bringing iOS technology to the Mac is in the service of creating a better Mac experience or amounts, as Levy characterizes it, to ‘the annexation of the Mac platform,’ but just as certain iOS gestures made sense to bring to the touchpad, the Touch Bar feels like a natural way to migrate Mac app toolbars to the keyboard and enhance the manipulation of linear content like audio and video.