What it is: Apple introduced the Touch Bar on their MacBook Pro laptops, but may be readying it for desktop models as well.
Last year, Apple introduced a new type of user interface called the Touch Bar. The Touch Bar is a touch screen that replaces the row of largely useless function row keys and displays a strip of virtual keys instead. By modifying these virtual keys for whatever you’re currently using, the Touch Bar can be more versatile than generic function row keys. Unfortunately, Apple has yet to introduce the Touch Bar to the desktop Macintosh.
That may change with the iMac Pro. Although Apple’s prototypes of the iMac Pro showed a traditional keyboard with function row keys at the top, the latest technical specifications suggest Apple will include Secure Enclave technology, which uses an ARM processor to authenticate Touch ID operations. Look for an ARM processor in a Macintosh and chances are good it will support Touch ID.
If Apple wants the world to adapt the Touch Bar, they have to make it available on desktop models. Right now, Apple still sells laptops without the Touch Bar because the Touch Bar adds to the cost of the computer. Eventually, the Touch Bar will become standard for all but the lowest cost Macintosh models.
The Touch Bar represents a step forward in user interface design. Just as early PCs resisted the idea of using a mouse, so will today’s Macintosh users resist the idea of using the Touch Bar. Over time, the Touch Bar will become a standard feature on the Macintosh. Like the original computer mouse, the Touch Bar isn’t obviously useful until you actually use it.
In case you want to try out the Touch Bar without buying a Touch Bar laptop, you can load Apple’s free Xcode compiler on your Macintosh. Then choose the Window > Show Touch Bar option. This will display a Touch Bar on the screen so you can see how the Touch Bar would work in your favorite program.
The Touch Bar isn’t an obvious change, much like the initial iPhone didn’t change the smartphone market overnight. But given time, expect the Touch Bar to become a common feature on all Macintosh computers. When you start seeing the Touch Bar gravitate to the PC world of Windows and Linux, then you’ll know the Touch Bar has finally been accepted.
Until then, try the virtual Touch Bar. You may like it enough to start depending on it.