Back to the Mac

Multi-touch MacBook

If you read my earlier post, then you’ll know how I feel about products being announced long before they’ll actually be available to buy, so with Apple announcing a special media event for next week, I feel compelled to present a pre pre-release press-release plea. Still with me? Good.

Why is is that the Mac faithful tend to get over-excited at the very announcement of an announcement, over-analysing every minor detail of the invitation design for clues as to what life-changing new piece of hardware or software might be unleashed from the mothership, wondering whether or not Steve will be on stage, and hoping there will be “One More Thing”…? Been there, done that, and very nearly got the T-shirt printed.

The last invitation featured an acoustic guitar with the sound hole re-formed into the shape of the Apple logo. It was a nice piece of design if you ask me, but one that had some people possessed over what was concealed ‘inside’ the guitar, and saw them frantically downloading the image and lifting the shadows in Photoshop to see more clearly the invisible hidden message, meticulously dissecting subliminal hints in the geometry of the bracing. There was nothing there. It was just bracing. Move on please.

So what is there not to get over-excited about this time? The invitation design which teases the image of a lion behind a slightly ajar Apple logo ‘door’ is clear enough. Or is it? I’m not a betting man, but while the sensible money will be on discussion and demonstration of the latest incumbent big-cat OS – be that 10.7 or possibly even a glimpse into the future world of OS XI – what if that ‘door’ on the invite is closing, not opening? The glass could be half empty you know. What with the rise of iOS, do we really even need a full-fat OS anymore?

Well, actually, yes we do. Full fat is good. Believe me, I should know. Despite the fact that there are iApps out there that let you fix your photos, write letters, finger-paint, illustrate, compose music and even edit video, we still need the more powerful desktop applications for serious work, and these applications in turn need the more powerful OS to run – Final Cut Studio and Adobe Collection won’t run on your iPad, at least, not yet. As excellent as our index fingers are at dancing the iOS dance, we also still need a cursor and mouse for precise input and control.

With Apple seemingly focusing all their attention on iOS development and mobile class devices recently, the desktop Mac experience has remained largely unchanged for some time. In many respects though, there’s nothing to complain about – in a nutshell, neither the hardware nor the software gets in the way, and you can just get on with business. I genuinely can’t remember the last time any of the Macs I personally use on a daily basis crashed, wouldn’t communicate with a newly acquired peripheral, or I couldn’t do something I wanted to do.

Apple’s strength lies in its’ integrated approach to hardware and software which makes the Mac platform a stable, reliable one for both work and play – at least, that’s my personal experience. I have no idea whether we’ll see Apple play it safe next week and preview some nice ‘evolutionary’ updates to the OS, or present something truly revolutionary. Either would be nice, but please Apple, don’t show me some exciting new features and make me wait 6 months to actually use them. Please. I doubt the world is ready for a fully touch-based desktop OS, and I doubt Apple is ready to show it to us. However, I fully expect we will see the lines between the desktop OS and touch-based iOS start to be blurred in the forthcoming release, and if anyone can implement multi-touch on the desktop effectively, elegantly and efficiently, it’s Apple.

One more thing – for me, a multi-touch capable sub-notebook that not only runs Mac OS, but also, with a deft two-finger swipe on the screen, launches a new dashboard full of touch-based iApps, would very quickly become king of the portable computing jungle, and would surely grab the lion’s share of the market. Come on Apple, let’s hear you roar…..

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2 thoughts on “Back to the Mac”

  1. You nailed how the initial implementation will work – a dashboard layer containing all your apps from iTunes. It will help older folks translate frm iPad to laptop and iMac. Instead of front row it could be the AppShelf ??

    Laptops are not designed for screen poking so expect a longer term redesign perhaps moving the hinge point or a jumbo iPad.

    Great speculation…

    1. Thanks John!

      Even if Apple stick with the name ‘Dashboard’ and just replace all those widgets with our iApps, I think it’s a winning formula. Swipe two fingers left for iApps, right for Finder….

      Screen-poking certainly isn’t ideal given current MacBook hinge design, and I don’t think prodding a swanky 27″ iMac monitor is that good an idea either. For laptops, I’m not convinced implementing a larger multi-touch sensitive area in place of the current trackpad wouldn’t be the right solution – it’s just not the same multi-touch experience as actually interacting with the screen itself. Equally, the iPad Toastiemaker (two iPads hinged together) isn’t the answer – typing on a MacBook Pro feels great. Typing on the iPad, not so much. I’m sure Apple are working on a perfect, revolutionary multi-touch laptop, I’m just not sure they’re ready to show it to the world.

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