Touch Bar none: Will there be a rare Apple backtrack?

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If rumors are to be believed…

Wait, do we need to pause a minute on that? If you’re not familiar with the Macalope’s stance on rumors, he firmly believes that Apple rumors should not be taken with a grain of salt but with an entire salt lick.

And this is not just because he loves a good salt lick.

Not just because.

Still, some purveyors of Apple rumors are better than others and Ming-Chi Kuo, while still not perfect, is better than most. This is, of course, grading on the scale of someone who came up when Apple rumors were based on little more than wishful thinking and a friend who worked at CompUSA. You try to tell kids today about the rumor of a crank-powered iBook and they won’t believe you.

Anyway, if current rumors are to be believed, it looks like the Touch Bar might not be long for this world. If it happens, this would be a rare but not unheard of instance of Apple introducing a technology and then killing it just a few years later (see: 3D Touch on the iPhone).

The Macalope was never a TouchBar hater, per se, but he also didn’t love it. Some people actually do but they seem to be a minority compared to those who are either indifferent or can’t stand Apple’s purported answer to touch on a MacBook. When you look at the recent changes to MacBooks (some might say “improvements” or “returns to sanity”) it is easy to think that the company might be rolling back the more severe design choices of a certain British executive who left the company not that long ago.

Let’s just call him “Smony Smive”.

Looking at the keyboard of his brand-spanking new M1 MacBook Air, the Macalope can imagine Mr. Smive’s notes.

“Unsightly open space around inverted T arrow keys draws my gaze like a strawberry jelly smudge on a Porsche 911. Non-butterfly ‘durable’ key mechanism reveals slight hint of backlighting around key edges. Disgusting. Hideous row of physical F-keys with gaudy function icons literally burns my eyes. Is this a laptop or the whore of Babylon?”

The Macalope has never met Smony Smive and he doesn’t know who was actually responsible for the Touch Bar, the butterfly keyboard and the square left and right arrow keys, but he thinks he nailed this impression at the very least.

There is a line between aesthetics and functionality and another one between progress and things being designed they way they are for a reason. We probably all have our own opinions about where those lines are best drawn. For the Macalope it’s well past Square Arrowville, past downtown Butterfly Key and somewhere on Main Street in Touch Barberg.

All real places.

Don’t look that up.

The horny one always felt that, much like the Apple Watch upon which its technology is based, the Touch Bar suffered from freshman-itis (if that’s a thing) and that Apple would most likely iterate it and improve it. But four years on that hasn’t particularly happened. It got moved a little and the escape key was turned into a physical key, but the basic form and function of the Bar itself remains the same. It’s not impossible to imagine how the Touch Bar could be made better; through better software configuration options and touch feedback from the hardware.

But if Apple wants the Touch Bar to be a thing, it needs to make it a thing. Otherwise it’s better to go back to the physical keys. The opinions of Smony Smive notwithstanding.

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