What it is: The Touch Bar is the newest input device for Macintosh computers.
The Touch Bar not only replaces the useless row of function keys at the top of the keyboard, but also provides ever-changing options based on whatever you’re trying to do at the time. This makes the Touch Bar far more versatile than function keys because function keys are generic while the buttons on the Touch Bar are specific to the program you’re currently using. That alone makes the Touch Bar an essential input device for the future of computers.
Perhaps the most important use of the Touch Bar is the ability to use Apple Pay through fingerprint recognition. While other computers have offered fingerprint recognition before, the Touch Bar is unique in that it actually uses a separate operating system and processor. Essentially the Touch Bar is an Apple Watch.
Because the Touch Bar uses a different operating system than macOS, it’s harder (but not impossible) for hackers or malware to steal your fingerprint data off the Touch Bar. When you train the Touch Bar to recognize your fingerprint, that data goes into what’s called a Secure Enclave. This limits access to fingerprint data. If this fingerprint data were stored in macOS, then it would be far more vulnerable to hacking. By keeping this fingerprint data separate from macOS, the chance of hacking this data is much less.
While most people have focused on the Touch Bar as an input device, it’s probably far more valuable to Apple as an Apple Pay input device. By making it easy to use Apple Pay to purchase products online, Apple Pay protects your credit card data and gives Apple a percentage of the purchase. Every time you use Apple Pay with an iPhone, Apple Watch, or now a Macintosh with a Touch Bar, Apple makes money.
For consumers, the Touch Bar is important for offering an alternative input device. For Apple, the Touch Bar is important because it makes Apple Pay possible on the Macintosh. How will rivals like Android Pay or Samsung Pay compete against Apple Pay on the macintosh?
Chances are good Android Pay nor Samsung Pay will ever come to the Macintosh, so that means both will have to migrate to the world of Windows instead. Yet this requires cooperation with hardware manufacturers to insure the security of Android Pay or Samsung Pay on a PC. The more companies involved, the more likely something could go wrong, which means Android Pay and Samsung Pay on PCs will likely be less secure than Apple Pay on a Touch Bar Macintosh. This can only help increase the popularity of Apple Pay while making it difficult for rivals to compete.
The Touch Bar is an example of innovation that has more than one use. The Touch Bar isn’t just to replace function keys but also to make Apple Pay possible on computers.
Just as early critics derided the mouse as a useless input device, so are critics still unsure of the importance of the Touch Bar. Just wait a few years and every macintosh will offer a Touch Bar. When you start seeing PCs sporting touch bar-like devices instead of rows of function keys, then you’ll know that the Touch Bar has redefined input devices for computers just like the mouse did decades before.