Jony Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, sat for a Q&A with CNET’s News Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo following last week’s “Hello again” Mac event. Ive talked about various topics, including design considerations behind the creation of the Touch Bar, a marquee new feature of the new notebook, saying it’s “just the beginning of a very interesting direction”. He explained why Apple’d rejected a touchscreen iMac “many, many years ago” and more.
On Touch Bar
Speaking of the contextual Touch Bar feature on the new MacBook Pro, Ive said that the team was exploring a bunch of designs that “conceptually make sense” for two years before ultimately rejecting them all.
He said of these early designs:
When we lived on them for a while, sort of pragmatically and day to day, they are sometimes less compelling. This is something we lived on for quite a while before we did any of the prototypes. You really notice or become aware of something’s value when you switch back to a more traditional keyboard.
One of the things that remains quite a big challenge for us is that you have to prototype to a sufficiently sophisticated level to really figure out whether you’re considering the idea, or whether what you’re really doing is evaluating how effective a prototype is.
Their main goal revolved around creating a feature that would replace the mostly unused row of function keys above the keyboard.
You sort of change your hat, because you have to figure out how do you then productize it, and develop the idea, and resolve and refine to make it applicable to a specific product. To do that in the context of the MacBook Pro—while at the same time you’re trying to make it thinner, lighter and more powerful—the last thing you want to do is burden it with an input direction that now has a whole bunch of challenges specific to something like touch.
Apple is a company that certainly has plenty of resources so why hasn’t it created a touchscreen Mac already, especially now that Microsoft’s 28-inch Surface Studio with a touchscreen and its unique dial has received so much positive press?
Ive provided a cryptical explanation:
When we were exploring multitouch many, many years ago, we were trying to understand the appropriate application and opportunities for [it]. We just didn’t feel that [the Mac] was the right place for that…. It wasn’t particularly useful or an appropriate application of multitouch.
For a bunch of practical reasons. It’s difficult to talk [laughs] without going into a lot of details that puts me starting to talk about things that we are working on. I don’t really want to talk much more about it.
The explanation seems a little unconvincing to me, and I don’t buy it.
I think Apple could contribute a lot to the industry by bringing some of its Multi-Touch expertise from iOS devices to the Mac. A touchscreen iMac may not make much sense due to a Gorilla arm syndrome, but there are certain types of people—mostly creative—who would kill for a Microsoft Surface Studio-like all-in-one desktop from Apple.
“Doing something that’s different is actually relatively easy and relatively fast, and that’s tempting,” said Ive. “We don’t limit ourselves in how we will push—if it’s to a better place. What we won’t do is just do something different that’s no better.”