What it is: The Touch Bar is a touch sensitive panel that replaces the traditional row of function keys.
For decades, keyboard manufacturers kept the top row of function keys for compatibility reasons. Yet few people ever use those function keys. That’s why most computers now assign hardware controls to function keys because function keys are generally useless. So getting rid of function keys simplifies the keyboard, but replacing it with the Touch Bar is far more useful because the Touch Bar can optimize itself for whatever task you’re currently doing with your computer.
The Touch Bar is the future of computer keyboards because function keys are useless and the Touch Bar is infinitely more useful and versatile. This is like comparing a horse and carrier with a car. How many people want to own a horse and feed and care for it when they could just own a car instead? Horses are largely obsolete for transportation in the same way that function keys are largely obsolete for computers. Getting rid of function keys hurts almost nobody.
By making the Touch Bar customizable as you use a program, the Touch Bar becomes useful. Obviously Apple isn’t going to limit the Touch Bar to laptops but will offer an Apple keyboard with a Touch Bar that you can use with a desktop Macintosh. As more people get comfortable with the Touch Bar, will it gravitate tot he PC world of Windows and Linux?
Back in 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh with a mouse. Eventually PCs started using a mouse as well when people realized how useful a mouse could be. The same will likely happen with the Touch Bar.
PC manufacturers will eventually adopt the Touch Bar concept because function keys are obsolete and Apple just made this glaringly obvious to everyone. Second, once Macintosh users get comfortable with the Touch Bar and find it simplifies computing, PCs will want to adopt a Touch Bar as well.
Most of today’s PCs have already adopted touch screens so touch screens are now commonplace on everything but the Macintosh. Since many people are used to touching the screen of a tablet or smartphone, they’re finding PC touch screens useful for simple manipulation of items. The key question is once people find how useful the Touch Bar is (and how useless function keys are), the Touch Bar will also become commonplace, but only on the Macintosh.
Are Macintosh users clamoring for touch screens? Some are. Will PC users clamor for a Touch Bar? Every time they see the row of obsolete function keys serving absolutely no purpose, they can imagine how a Touch Bar could help them instead.
The big difference between the touch screen and the Touch Bar is that the touch screen doesn’t replace anything useless but serves as an additional input device. The Touch Bar makes the row of function keys glaringly obvious how useless they’ve been for decades, so getting rid of something that serves no purpose and replacing it with something that serves a great purpose is a bigger psychological advantage.
Touch screens give you something you didn’t necessarily ask for but can appreciate using. The Touch Bar also gives you something you didn’t necessarily ask for, but can appreciate using, and the Touch Bar eliminates useless function keys at the same time. By adding new features and removing useless ones, the Touch Bar has the potential of making it easier for people to adopt the Touch Bar as a secondary input device.
Eventually the keyboards of computers will be as versatile as the virtual keyboards on smartphones, adapting and optimizing to whatever task you’re doing. Until that day comes along, the Touch Bar is a step towards making the keyboard more versatile.
The future of keyboards can’t ignore the Touch Bar. It’s soon going to be a part of every computer, including PCs.