What it is: Apple’s latest MacBook Pro laptops introduced the Touch Bar, a new way to interact with the computer.
When Apple introduced the new Touch Bar, not everyone was convinced that it would be useful. The general consensus is that the Touch Bar isn’t really necessary, but that’s coming from people who have yet to try the Touch Bar. This is the exact same reaction people had initially when computer mice first appeared.
Back then, the Macintosh required the use of a mouse for controlling a computer but MS-DOS based PCs did not. Only later did PCs gradually adopt mice and then once Windows 3.0 became popular, mice became a necessity.
The Touch Bar is going to become a standard part of computers for two reasons. First, it completely replaces the utterly useless rows of function keys at the top of the keyboard. Very few people ever use function keys any more to the point where most keyboards routinely assign hardware controls to these function keys. To use function keys as function keys, you often have to hold down an additional key (usually labeled Fn) while pressing a function key to make it act like a function key. This extra step and key simply makes function keys even more cumbersome to use than ever before.
Few people are going to miss the top row of useless function keys. That’s what makes the Touch Bar so intriguing. Not only does the Touch Bar replace something obsolete that few people used anyway, but the Touch Bar offers one-touch access to shortcuts that adapt to whatever you happen to be doing at the time.
Today, most people use shortcuts by memorizing complicated keystroke commands. While pressing Ctrl+S or Command+S is easy to use and remember for choosing the Save command, all the simple and easy to remember keystroke shortcuts are already taken. That means other shortcuts require two or three obscure keystrokes that are harder to remember.
Instead of forcing people to rely on complicated keystroke combinations, the Touch Bar offers a single key access to common tasks. This makes it easy to choose commands with one touch of a button. Because the button can be clearly labeled and identified, you don’t have to memorize abstract function key assignments for common commands like thinking that F7 prints a document while F10 saves it.
The Touch Bar will simply define the next generation of PCs for decades to come. Every computer comes with a keyboard, but that keyboard will now sport a Touch Bar interface instead of rows of obsolete function keys. The keyboard and mouse are now standard input devices, and the Touch Bar will be a third standard as well.
Watch the next year as Apple introduces the Touch Bar to all of their desktop Macintosh models, and then watch to see how the Windows/Linux world adapts to Touch Bar input devices in the future.
Nobody will ever buy a computer without a mouse or trackpad today. Tomorrow, nobody will ever buy a computer without a Touch Bar either.