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Report: Apple Reverses Course on Touch Screens, Will Bring Them to the Mac

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(Credit: Molly Flores)Many notable features have differentiated Macs and Windows PCs over the years, and touch-screen support is at the top of the list. Microsoft got on the bandwagon early with Tablet PCs more than 20 years ago, and it cemented the marriage in 2012 with Windows 8’s touch interface. Redmond and its partners continue to include the technology in laptops and all-in-ones, but Apple has never relented to pressure to do the same. The reasons why it has held the line vary, but Apple would probably say it does offer a touch screen; it’s called the iPad. Regardless, it seems the tide has finally turned, as a new report from Bloomberg states Apple is working on the thing that shall not be named: a MacBook Pro with a touch screen.

News of the surprising reversal comes from a reliable source; Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The article is paywalled, but 9to5mac has covered the highlights. It notes that Steve Jobs himself once called touch screens “ergonomically terrible.” When the iPad was announced, he doubled down. “Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical,” said Jobs in 2010. “After an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off.” Cupertino’s most recent denunciation of touchscreens came in 2021 when Apple marketing executive Tom Boger called the iPad the world’s “best touch computer.” He also said touch wouldn’t work on the Mac as it’s “optimized for direct input.”

Despite these proclamations, the company is reportedly looking at introducing touch-screen support on the MacBook Pro in a 2025 update. The revamped product will reportedly have a trackpad and a keyboard but will allow for touch input and gestures.

In a way, Apple already has a touch-screen laptop with the iPad, sorta. (Image: Apple)

The move by Apple will continue to erode the wall it’s put up between its tablets and computers; the iPad’s already gained several forms of multitasking and Macs now use the same silicon as its handhelds. In 2020, Apple even announced it would begin allowing iPhone and iPad apps to run on macOS, although most find it too frustrating without touch support. It’s widely believed Apple’s refusal to add touch screens to its computers was really to avoid cannibalizing iPad sales.

Although Apple’s Mac lineup is more successful now than ever, it’s reported that the reason for all of this is to just be more competitive with Windows laptops. Apple remains the only major manufacturer of computers to not offer it, and its customers have been asking about it for years. The company dipped a toe in the water with its ill-fated Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro in 2016. It was never very popular, though, and Apple removed it from its MacBook Pro line in 2021 and restored hardware function keys, much to the delight of its customers.

Apple has dabbled in touch on the Mac before with the Touch Bar, but it didn’t go very well. (Image: Apple)

Even if Apple does deliver this functionality to the Mac, it will likely still keep macOS and iPadOS. Bloomberg’s sources say the first touch product will run macOS, and it will continue to keep the product lines separate. If it does make this reversal in the future, it’ll be interesting to hear Apple’s reasoning. Back when Microsoft brought touch to its new Windows 8 operating system, current Apple CEO Tim Cook likened it to merging a toaster with a refrigerator.

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