From the Microsoft Surface too Lenovo’s Yoga line, touch screen laptops have become fairly prolific in the world of technology. However, this current trend of touch screens on laptops is somewhat worrisome to me, in that it may do more to hinder, rather than help, the further development of laptops.
With Apple now throwing it’s hat into the ring, in a way, with its touchbar it’s fair to say that this trend will be around for quite awhile; and while some features are convenient, there are plenty of negatives associated with these changes.
Apple’s touch bar differentiates itself from other touchscreen-based devices as the screen itself is not touch sensitive, instead there is a touch bar that replaces the traditional row of F1 through F12 keys. This change allows for an alleviation of one problem with touchscreen devices. Many devices use the same processor to handle touch as well as other features, while the touch bar uses a separate processor.
The functionality of the touchscreen needs to be considered. While future models may have pressure sensitivity, current models do not have such features. Other devices may attempt to use a double tap function too recreate the right click, but this too would fall flat as double clicking is something entirely different than right clicking. Right clicking, or two finger clicking, is a vital part of certain programs and to deprive users of such a function would be a change.
It is also fair to question how many application and programs will be compatible with this touch-based interface. Can Microsoft Word use the touch functionality? How about Final Cut Pro? Well, as these are first party products the answer will most likely be yes. In fact, Apple has confirmed that all its apps will work with touchbar, which differentiates itself from a touch screen in that the entire app is not running a touch compatible format, only a portion is. For example, Final Cut Pro, which was shown in the reveal video, will not be running in an entirely touch based mode. From what is seen in that video only the video timeline will appear on the touch bar. Comparatively, running Windows Movie Maker on a touch based device would mean that the entire program would be using touch commands.
But what about third party apps? Will those simply be relegated to the keyboard like before? Will these touch controls work with games too? And if this touch functionality is always on, how hard will it be to clean the screens?
While Apple’s touchbar is clearly better than the majority of touchscreen laptops, the trend as a whole is potentially damaging to the industry. Computers have functioned perfectly fine for the past 33 years without a touchscreen, why start now?