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Posts tagged with "macbook pro"

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.


How Apple’s Apps Will Use the Touch Bar

Good overview by Benjamin Mayo of all the Apple apps that will have Touch Bar integration on the new MacBook Pros. Apple certainly had the time to build extensive support for the new API while waiting for the new Pros to ship.

That’s a total of 23 Apple apps that live in the /Applications root folder with Touch Bar support as of the current macOS 10.12.1 build. The following apps have no Touch Bar integration as far as I could tell; App Store, Automator, Chess, Dashboard, Dictionary, DVD Player, Font Book, Image Capture, Photo Booth and Stickies. I expect all of Apple’s apps to flesh out their Touch Bar integrations in future macOS update.

See also: Steve Troughton-Smith’s utility to grab a screenshot of the currently active app in the Touch Bar.


Phil Schiller Discusses the MacBook Pro

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, sat down for an interview with The Independent after the October 27th Apple event to discuss the new MacBook Pro. Schiller and David Phelan of The Independent discussed a wide range of MacBook-related topics, including the evolution of Apple’s laptop lineup, why there is no touchscreen MacBook, and Siri on the Mac. What interested me most of all though, was Phelan’s two follow-up questions posed after the initial interview:

How would you describe the response to the new MacBook Pro?

There has certainly been a lot of passionate dialogue and debate about the new MacBook Pro! Many things have impressed people about it, and some have caused some controversy. I hope everyone gets a chance to try it for themselves and see how great the MacBook Pro is. It is a really big step forward and an example of how much we continue to invest in the Mac. We love the Mac and are as committed to it, in both desktops and notebooks, as we ever have been.

And we are proud to tell you that so far our online store has had more orders for the new MacBook Pro than any other pro notebook before. So there certainly are a lot of people as excited as we are about it.

Are you surprised by how vocal the critics have been?

To be fair it has been a bit of a surprise to me. But then, it shouldn’t be. I have never seen a great new Apple product that didn’t have its share of early criticism and debate — and that’s cool. We took a bold risk, and of course with every step forward there is also some change to deal with. Our customers are so passionate, which is amazing.

We care about what they love and what they are worried about. And it’s our job to help people through these changes. We know we made good decisions about what to build into the new MacBook Pro and that the result is the best notebook ever made, but it might not be right for everyone on day one. That’s okay, some people felt that way about the first iMac and that turned out pretty good.

Schiller’s message is clear. Apple took a risk with its new MacBook Pros, is confident in its decision, is committed to both desktops and laptops, and cares about its critics’ concerns. That said, by emphasizing that the MacBook Pro has had record online sales, Schiller is also suggesting that the MacBook Pro’s critics are a vocal minority.


How the Touch Bar Works

Good overview of the Touch Bar and its developer API by Benjamin Mayo:

Developers can display pretty much whatever they want whilst their app is in the foreground; this includes swapping out views and buttons depending on the current window of their app (a compose window necessitates different Touch Bar accessory views than the inbox window). However, the Touch Bar does not allow persistent widgets, status items or similar features like always-visible news tickers. These constraints are unlikely to be lifted either; Apple is imposing the restriction so that the UI under the user’s finger isn’t constantly changing due to spurious notifications or text messages.

Apple wants the bar to display peaceful relatively-static UI based on the current task. Major changes to the Bar should only happen when the application state drastically changes, such as opening a new tab or beginning a new modal activity. To repeat: once an app’s window is not active, it loses its control to influence what is shown on the Bar. The system Control Strip sits to the right in a collapsed state by default, but can be disabled entirely in System Preferences if desired.

This makes sense to me: the Touch Bar is intended to be an extension of the keyboard that deals with input – it’s not a smaller Dashboard or a widget container. This means that apps like PCalc won’t be able to persistently display their controls in the Touch Bar unless they’re the frontmost (active) app.

The more I think about it, the more the Touch Bar feels like the natural evolution of QuickType and the Shortcut Bar from iOS – to the point where I wonder if we’ll ever get this kind of evolution on the iPad Pro as well (where the current app is always the frontmost one and system controls could use a faster way to be engaged than Control Center). Perhaps with a new external keyboard with its own embedded Touch Bar and T1 chip?


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.


Ars Technica on the T1 Chip in the New MacBook Pro

Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica, got Apple on the record about the T1 chip and what it does for security and the Touch Bar:

At any rate, the T1 is an interesting chip that does much more than support Touch ID and Apple Pay. Apple tells us that it has a built-in image signal processor (ISP) related to the ones Apple uses in iPhone and iPad SoCs, something which Troughton-Smith suggests could protect the camera from malware hijacking. And its Secure Enclave handles the encryption and storage of fingerprint data and protects it from the rest of the operating system and its apps, much as it does in iOS.

When you interact with the Touch Bar, Apple tells us that the majority of the processing is being done by the Intel CPU, although the T1 also appears to do some processing in specific situations for security’s sake, as when Apple Pay is used. But to keep the Touch Bar from counting toward the number of external monitors you can use (Intel’s GPUs support a total of three separate displays, AMD’s support six), the T1 is used to drive the Touch Bar’s screen. From what Apple told me, it sounds like the image you’re seeing is actually being drawn by the main system GPU but is being output to the display by T1, not unlike the way other hybrid graphics implementations work.

Between A-series chips, the W1, and the T1, Apple’s most fascinating work is happening in the custom silicon space. The whole T1-Touch Bar deal is extremely intriguing.


New MacBook Pro Touch Bar, T1 Chip Run on a Variant of watchOS

Interesting findings by Steve Troughton-Smith: the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro appears to be running on a variant of watchOS under the hood, with the T1 SoC handling security (primarily) for Touch ID as well as the bridge between macOS and the Touch Bar (over a USB connection).

This lines up with what I heard ahead of the event – that Apple would embed a SoC reminiscent of the Apple Watch S1 in the new MacBook Pros – but the implications of what Apple did with the T1 chip and the Touch Bar run deeper than I expected.

For one, macOS can now leverage years of security that went into honing the Secure Enclave and Touch ID on iOS – all while working with an ARM architecture inside the MacBook Pro instead of x86. And it even seems like the T1 is driving the iSight camera (for security purposes) and that it may render certain UI elements on the Touch Bar directly instead of delegating that to macOS (again, for security). And when macOS isn’t running, watchOS alone can render UI on the Touch Bar (likely for Boot Camp).

It’s fascinating to think that part of watchOS (which has been optimized for low power consumption and lightweight touch UIs) is being used to power a marquee hardware feature of the new MacBook Pros. And even more intriguing is the idea of watchOS and years of investment in iOS security helping make Macs more secure – it’s not too absurd to imagine that future T-series chips may drive security of other Mac input methods.

I collected some of the most interesting tweets about this below, so you can read the technical bits for yourself.

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The New MacBook Pro: Our Complete Overview

At yesterday morning’s Hello Again keynote event, Apple announced the long-awaited update to their professional laptop line. The new MacBook Pro comes in two sizes and features a thinner body and upgraded internals. It also comes equipped with Apple’s brand new Touch Bar, a Retina touchscreen display which replaces the row of function keys atop the keyboard, and a Touch ID sensor.

These new machines mark the first significant spec advancements for the MacBook Pro since they moved to Haswell processors in 2014, and the first notable hardware changes since going Retina in 2012. As such, it’s no surprise that the new MacBook Pro is an improvement in nearly every way over previous models. This is truly the next generation of Apple’s flagship laptops.

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CNET Asks: Does the Mac Still Matter?

Apple announced a new line of MacBook Pros today that replace the function keys with a Touch Bar, a touch sensitive strip that includes customizable software buttons and Touch ID functionality. CNET, in an exclusive 90-minute briefing with Phil Schiller, Craig Federighi, and Jony Ive, discussed the new MacBook Pros and explored the relevancy of the Mac in a mobile era.

That the new MacBook Pros are thinner, lighter, faster, and brighter is not unexpected for a laptop that hasn’t been updated for a while. What’s special about the new MacBook Pros is the Touch Bar. In a typically understated fashion, a reticent Jony Ive described the Touch Bar to CNET as:

’the beginning of a very interesting direction’ that combines ‘touch and display-based inputs with a mechanical keyboard.’

Phil Schiller was a little more forthcoming about what Apple hopes its new laptops will mean to users:

’We didn’t want to just create a speed bump on the MacBook Pro,’ he says. ‘In our view this is a big, big step forward. It is a new system architecture, and it allows us to then create many things to come, things that we can’t envision yet.’

The Touch Bar is a fascinating blend of ideas from iOS, such as touch tools for straightening photos, and existing macOS toolbars moved to the keyboard. Regardless of how you feel about how long it’s taken Apple to refresh the MacBook Pro, I’m optimistic about this new approach to the MacBook Pro and the possibilities it opens up to third-party developers.