What it is: The Touch Bar is a new input device that’s going to be exclusive to the Macintosh.
Third-party support for will eventually come to every Macintosh program, but until that does, the Touch Bar will largely be useless for third-party programs. However, Apple is already adding support for the Touch Bar in their own programs from the Finder and GarageBand to iTunes and their iWork office suite.
By clearly demonstrating how the Touch Bar can be useful, Apple can stimulate third-party developers into adding Touch Bar support to their own programs. Once Touch Bar support becomes as commonplace as mouse support for every program, the Touch Bar will remain an indispensable way to control a Macintosh from now on.
What’s particularly interesting about the Touch Bar is that Microsoft had experimented with a similar concept years ago. But since Microsoft didn’t make computers back then, they let their research languish. Eventually, Microsoft decided that touch screens were the input device of the future, not an adaptable touch screen surface as part of the keyboard.
This divergent view of touch screens vs. the Touch Bar will define PCs vs. Macs in the future. Mac users will soon get accustomed to Touch Bar support and find it lacking when they’re forced to use Windows. Similarly, many PC users already have gotten used to touch screens and find it lacking when they have to use a Macintosh.
We already know that Apple will never adopt the touch screen for the Macintosh, but will Microsoft adopt the Touch Bar for Windows? Most likely the answer will be yes because third-party keyboard manufacturers like Logitech will develop keyboards for the Macintosh that can also be used with Windows. When plugged into a Macintosh, such third-party keyboards will offer a Touch Bar. When plugged into a Windows PC, third-party keyboards will likely default to displaying nothing more than function keys on the Touch Bar.
As more Windows programs adopt the Touch Bar, Windows PCs will start to offer both a Touch Bar and a touch screen as a way to demonstrate “superiority” over the Macintosh. Meanwhile, the Macintosh will simply offer the Touch Bar, but that Touch Bar will define the future of personal computing as much as the mouse has done.
So the future of the Touch Bar seems assured. Apple is simply supporting their own hardware advances with their own software to show people how the Touch Bar works and to get them used to depending on it.
The Touch Bar is the future (and useless rows of function keys are not).