What it is: Apple recently updated their iWork office suite to support Touch ID, which is currently only found on the Touch Bar.
One reason why Apple seems to move slowly is that they take their time to think of the long-term future. In comparison, rivals often toss features into products just for the sake of differentiating their products from Apple’s products. This creates the illusion of innovation but actually winds up creating a laundry list of features that provide little or not useful advantage to the user. As a result, such “features” are largely wasted such as Samsung’s ability to bump phones to exchange contact data (which only worked with certain models of Samsung phones) or Microsoft’s new Dial user interface device that works beautifully for artists drawing directly on a touch screen but fails to provide any useful advantage for non-graphics users such as people using word processors or spreadsheets.
When Apple recently announced the Touch Bar to their latest MacBook Pro, people weren’t sure what to expect. The Touch Bar replaces the row of function keys at the top of the keyboard with a strip of virtual keys that programs can customize as the user works. That way the Touch Bar provides contextual suggestions for shortcuts.
Some people wondered if the Touch Bar was just going to be confined to laptops but now that Apple has released their iWork office suite update for Pages, Keynote, and Numbers, these latest updates support Touch ID on the Touch Bar.
Touch ID lets you use fingerprint recognition to unlock a Macintosh or switch accounts on a Macintosh. With Touch ID support on Apple’s own software, it looks like Apple will continue rolling out Touch ID for other Macintosh models as well. That means you can expect a Touch Bar to appear on the keyboards of a MacBook and a separate keyboard and Touch Bar for desktop Macintosh models such as the iMac.
Touch ID is also important for using Apple Pay on a Macintosh. By using fingerprint recognition, a Macintosh can verify your Apple Pay account so you can safely shop online without revealing your credit card number.
It’s easy to see the future of Apple products if you just stay observant. Apple is slowly merging the features of iOS devices with the Macintosh so it’s only a matter of time before all Macintosh models offer a Touch Bar. As the Touch Bar and fingerprint recognition catches on for computers like it has for mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, expect facial recognition, through webcams, to become the next feature to migrate from iOS to macOS.
If you’re wondering why Apple has taken so long to update their Macintosh lineup, it’s likely because they need to implement the Touch Bar on a separate iMac keyboard in addition to putting it on the MacBook. In the short-term, Apple will likely offer two models that let you choose between the Touch Bar or a row of function keys, but given the general uselessness of function keys, it’s a safe bet that within a few years, every Macintosh will come with a Touch Bar.
The real shift will come when the Windows and Linux world adopts Touch Bars on the keyboard, and this can only come about when Apple introduces a detachable keyboard that can work with either an iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, or any desktop PC. When the PC world adopts the Touch Bar, that will be the end of function row keys that most people have ignored for the past decade.
The Touch Bar is coming to personal computers and it will be a drastic change for user input devices that the rest of the computing world has yet to discover.