Daniel Eran Dilger
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A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch

macbook touch
Daniel Eran Dilger
The next big thing for Mac laptops: a color LCD touchpad that brings the company’s iconic touch interface of the iPhone to Mac users. Here’s how it fits into Apple’s previous work and how it adds value and differentiation at surprisingly little additional cost.

Articles in this Series:
What’s Next from Apple: New iPods Sept 22, iPhone OS 2.1, iTunes 8.0
Two Decades of Portable Macs: 1989 – 2009 (updated)
The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push
A Product Transition: Giving MacBooks the iPhone Touch
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Delivering the “state of the art new products at prices competitors can’t match” promised by Apple executives in the company’s July financial results conference call would require ‘something really new that captures people’s imaginations,’ as Bill Gates said of the original Mac nearly 25 years ago.

Software Differentiation.

Apple still has something really new that is capturing imaginations, something that Dell and HP can’t match: the software expertise and interface design savvy that is obvious to anyone who has seen the iPhone.

All of the PC makers have relied on Microsoft to do their software development, a strategy that worked only when Microsoft served as the common denominator across the entire PC industry and competition among PC makers was only related to hardware cost.

Dell differentiated itself by developing highly efficient PC distribution, while HP has struggled to plunge PC prices to compete, forcing Dell down with it. Neither were ready to compete against a reinvigorated Apple with unique software technology, particularly as Microsoft dropped the ball, exposing the entire monoculture of the PC market to a blight of consumer apathy with Vista.

Vista 1984

Microsoft’s Zune, Vista, and Windows Mobile 7 Strategy vs the iPhone
Windows Vista, 7, and Singularity: The New Copland, Gershwin and Taligent
Windows 95 and Vista: Why 2007 Won’t Be Like 1995

Hardware Differentiation.

Apple is not only competing against its PC rivals in terms of software, but also in hardware features. By putting an iPhone screen into its laptop line, Apple will draw a line of differentiation that will make it even more obvious for consumers that Macs are much more than just PCs running a different OS.

As the previous article pointed out, Apple has volume buying power in consumer electronics that dwarfs that of other PC makers. Apple already has orders in for tens of millions of iPhone touch screens.

HP and Dell don’t have more than a tiny fraction of that with their slow selling PDAs and failed MP3 players, and simply can’t afford to custom design any significant CE integration. They already do very little custom work on their PCs, and really only act as assemblers and resellers of commodity PC parts.

The iPod Power Behind Apple’s Big Mac Push

Something in the Air.

The MacBook Air demonstrated the demand for new technology. Pundits cackled about its price and tried to cheerlead for rival products the offered its performance in a bigger box, or less performance in a smaller box, or less of everything in a cheaper box, but the market demonstrated that people will pay a premium for a sexy, well designed product.

The MacBook Air has become a wildly popular, highly successful product, not just a flashy concept model as many other companies’ high end mobile laptops are.

The existing MacBook and MacBook Pro lineup is now due for a three year overhaul. Rumors suggest a new slimmer casing with a redesigned battery bay that exposes an easier to access hard drive and RAM. That’s all fine and good, but it’s not enough to carry Apple through another three years of differentiation. Adding a color LCD in place of its single button, multitouch trackpad will.

AppleInsider | Apple’s next-gen MacBook Pro casing design revealed

SideShow Bob.

Adding a secondary display is an easy gimmick. Take Microsoft’s Windows SideShow, which the company encouraged PC makers to add to their laptops as a feature of Windows Vista. The premise: users could poke at a four way joystick next to the the small display to access email and check contacts without having to open up their laptop and wait for Vista to slowly boot or wake from hibernation.

SideShow Vista

CNET raved about the wildly impractical boondoggle idea, which required the same kind of specialized support from developers to do anything useful for users, just like the Microsoft Surface. But most people haven’t even heard of the feature, in part because PC makers can’t afford to put it on their mainstream laptops, now selling at an average retail price of around $700. Additionally, why not just consult your smartphone to do those kinds of tasks?

SideShow is fixed to your huge laptop making it less than accessible while not even updating your information live; it only shows you a partial view of the static content on your laptop, not your current messages. SideShow is the kind of committee-designed foolishness that can only impress the reality-challenged gadget hounds at CNET who rave about poor selling consumer devices and can’t figure out why the public doesn’t share their breathless excitement for the empire’s new birthday suits.

That’s not to say dual screens are dumb idea. Many flip phones have a tiny screen on the outside to make it less necessary to open them up just as Microsoft tried to sell with Vista. Many desktop users plug in dual 17“ displays for a view that’s far more affordable than one huge display with the same overall resolution. Nintendo’s DS uses two screens to give it more flexibility and a distinctive identity at a cheaper price than Sony’s larger screened PSP.

Why Add a Color LCD Trackpad?

The point of having an LCD trackpad on the MacBook would solve a different problem. It wouldn’t just be a stupid gewgaw like SlideShow. It would turn the trackpad from a simple input device into an infinitely configurable input and feedback mechanism.
It is unrealistic to add a 15” touchscreen to a laptop’s main display, both because of cost and because of the strain related to holding your hand to the screen to smear around oily fingerprints. However, an iPhone-sized touch screen would give Macs a powerful touch input system that would put rapid access to menus, widgets, and lists literally at your fingertips.

The iPhone already proves how to seamlessly interact with regular controls such as popup menus on the web, converting them from devices designed to be navigated with a mouse pointer into dials that can be flicked through more naturally with a finger swipe. Two fingered zoom, scroll, rotate and click controls are already exposed on the MacBook Air.

Imagine if your trackpad could present customizable options for enhancing those controls with whatever level of complexity you desired, from a simple way to dial through menus faster than the careful mouse-pointer targeting currently required, to a fully custom panel that could accommodate anything from a ten key to the most sophisticated touch input and feedback system one could imagine in software.

Applications could invent their own specific uses for it, but out of the box it could offer an immediate way to target menus, launch apps, put existing Dashboard widgets at your fingers, and perform other shortcuts faster than the user can navigate the main interface with the trackpad. It would also silence critics who still think the Mac only supports a one button mouse.

Lcd-Trackpad

200809010232

“A State of the Art Product Transition…”

Of course, adding such a highly visible feature would throw a wet blanket on existing laptop sales. Who would buy an existing regular MacBook when the new model had a dual screen input device? One might also ask, “Who would buy a iPod mini after the Nano came out?” Or a PowerBook G4 after the Intel MacBook Pro was announced, or an iPhone after the iPhone 3G was released.

In each case, Apple let inventories dry up dramatically in the weeks before the new model, most recently taking a major hit in iPhone shipments despite a healthy demand prior to the availability of the iPhone 3G. If you haven’t noticed yet, today’s Mac laptop inventories are severely constrained.

Apple would incur a cost hit when installing an iPhone-style screen into the MacBook. According to speculation by iSuppli, the original iPhone’s bill of materials and manufacturing costs amounted to around $260. The company guessed that the display and touch screen made up 20% of that, around $56. Base on those figures, for Apple to add the feature profitably it would have to charge around $100 more for its laptops in an already competitive market.

However, what if Apple added the feature to blow away competition in the laptop space rather than to make a profit on $56 of additional hardware? That might result in a “product transition” that would cause a short term hit on margins, yet result in greater revenues and ultimately profitability in the long run that made the jump worth it.

The transition to Intel involved lots of short term costs that were clearly worth it, and the design of the iPhone and MacBook Air required initial investment that took months to pay back. The fact that Apple has already warned investors of this “product transition” means the company is ready to hit the ground running.

“… at Prices Competitors Can’t Match”

Dell and HP don’t have any in house expertise in the kind of software integration needed to deliver such a product. They rely upon Microsoft for that, and Microsoft is current working to deliver touch features in Windows 7 and Windows Mobile 7 that won’t be ready until at least the end of 2009.

That’s assuming that Microsoft can pull it off, can do it on time, and can do it without compromise given Apple’s recent furious efforts to patent all of its work. So far, Microsoft has only demonstrated copycat touch technology already delivered in the MacBook Air and iPhone.

While Microsoft was able to copy the original Macintosh, in large part because Bill Gates forced John Sculley to hand over a free license to use Mac inventions in 1985 or else risk the immediate termination of Excel on the Mac, it has been stymied to clone Mac OS X.

Instead, Vista had to deliver clumsy and inferior alternatives to Exposé and other familiar elements of the Mac desktop due to Apple actually working to protect its inventions this time around. Microsoft was also unable to deliver a functional iPod replacement that any consumers wanted to buy. So HP and Dell might never get delivery of the technology they would need to copy Apple’s highly visible LCD trackpad.

Office Wars 3 – How Microsoft Got Its Office Monopoly
Ten Myths of Leopard: 10 Leopard is a Vista Knockoff

CE Clone Home.

Other phone makers have similarly rushed to market iPhone clones, but those models either lack multitouch features or just deliver simple tap screens that require awkward pressure, a fingernail, or a clumsy stylus to use them. CNET and other sites have done their best to distract from the very real differences between the iPhone’s touchscreen and those in inferior imitative devices, but users are seeing the differences themselves.

Even if Dell and HP could figure out a reasonable approximation, the fact that they currently aren’t selling ten million iPhones means they’d lack the economies of scale to risk putting such a screen on their laptops, because the higher price would cause them to lose sales to cheaper machines lacking any fancy LCD touchscreens.

In the commodity world of PCs, cost is often the only competitive factor. Adding $100 to a $700 laptop is far harder than hiding $56 dollars of hardware within models ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 where Apple sells its products. Additionally, Apple’s buying power would allow it to buy up all of the high quality components, leaving Dell and HP to buy reject components on the cheap.

Lots of New Buyers.

That gives Apple the opportunity to blow away users with a feature that would clearly differentiate its mobile line for years, more closely associate its Macs with the iPhone brand, and jump from today’s 8 to 10% of the US market to a figure closer to 30% within just a year. We already know Apple has 66% of the consumer-oriented retail market for machines above $1000 in the US; why not take the rest?

This suggests Apple could take the unusual step of releasing its new MacBooks and MacBook Pros together, perhaps even at the same time that it launches its new iPods, which do not appear to be taking any huge risks in terms of wild new designs this year.

By giving iPods a little bump and releasing them next to a new fleet of iPod touch-integrated laptops, Apple would blow out huge publicity right after having sold out its existing inventory of laptops to back to school buyers, who got free $299 iPod touch models as part of the deal.

And what about existing MacBook users? There’s no technical reason for not letting them plug their iPhone or iPod touch in via USB and activating it as a color touchscreen to expose the exact same functionality. That might prevent existing Mac and iPhone users from rushing to get a new LCD-equipped MacBook, but Apple really needs new buyers, not just more of the same.

The company plans to sell lots of iPhones over the next year, reportedly taking orders for 40 million. If only half of them also ended up buying a new laptop, Apple would double its entire installed base of Macs and triple its annual unit sales, easily outpacing Microsoft in revenues.

So far, the evidence is only circumstantial. Leaked images have only shown what purports to be the back of the new MacBook cases, not the touchpad area. We can only infer that Apple would want to sex up the trackpad in the same way that it lit up the PoweBook’s keyboard, and to continue following its incremental progress to deliver increasingly sophisticated multitouch trackpads in recent MacBooks and again on the Air.

We’ll have to wait a month or so to see if Apple will revolutionize its Mac laptops using the technology it has already paid for on the iPhone. I’m betting it will.

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

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  • lmasanti

    I see two problems:
    1) One is software: still in a highly controlled internal developing environment like the iPhone, still not all the [Apple’s] apps have the keyboard functioning landscape: Moving controls out of their actual position will take some time.
    2) If –for actual owners of MB, MBA– you give a “new feature” (MB/MBA-itouch integration) Sarbanes-Oxley Act will make Apple “charge you” for the fix.

    On the other hand, it could also be a “detachable” itouch from the laptop: always in sync! (I hate this detachability!)

  • gprovida

    The idea is interesting, my concern is that today eyes on screen(s) hands on keys and pad. This results in a lot of head movement.

    However if your fingers were mirrored on the display then you would have a touchsreen as large as the display without the oily fingers. With aqua transparencies the finger (tips) would not get in the way.

    Tying the iPhone as screen extension other than VNC would mean iPhone experience would be separate from iTunes and very different between Mac and Windows. This would violate the precedent of cross platform parity that Apple has had for iPods and iPhone’s.

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    Compliments for your nice and original analysis. It sure makes me curious!

    Coincidentally I downloaded yesterday “PearPad” for my iPhone. It transforms the iPhone to a trackpad for your Mac over WiFi / Bonjour. Only one way traffic, only input, but it shows it sure is feasible.

  • Dorotea

    Without see it, the LCD trackpad doesn’t sound compelling. But I’ve been wrong before. I thought the fatboy ipods would tank. Now I really like them.

  • Scott

    I like the “detachable” idea. Imagine that!

  • http://lantinian.blogspot.com lantinian

    Very good Idea and exellent arguments to support it. Even if all that happened, the full software will likely come via updates. Also, I think the hardware button will remain as one finger controls will be left to move the mouse around.

    Another thing is the size. A 3.5in touch screen might be too small for this. Eve the current Macbook Pros have bigger trackpad than 3.5in. The Macbook Air is even bigger and if Apple does not use the same touch screen, will it not affect the price considerably?

  • dallasmay

    I love the idea. It would definitely go a long way to differentiate Apples Laptops. And with all of the Multitouch patents from Apple, you know they are planning something. But I’m afraid this one might have to wait until January. I don’t know, but I think this might need a true OS upgrade. Snow Leopard. Maybe it was more than just under laying tech after all.

    “We already know Apple has 66% of the consumer-oriented retail market for machines above $1000 in the US; why not take the rest?”
    Apple will have a very difficult time taking the rest of that 33% (By the way, where did you get that stat?) At best they will only be able to take about 5-10% in my estimation. Most laptops sold to businesses are sold as a huge package deal that will also include servers. Don’t get me wrong, Apple has the best Unix Servers available, but they haven’t had the same growth there as their other departments. Maybe, Apple could actually start selling a stripped down MacBook for $700. Why not? Sure it cuts margins a bit, but if you introduce it along side new laptops with touch screens, you won’t cannibalize the higher end.

  • http://islandinthenet.com khurt

    I’m not buying ( literally and figuratively ) any of this. A touch screen trackpad as your describe sounds like a terrible idea. In fact is sound gimmicky. Apple should keep the innovations simple yet useful. Like sticking an iSight camera in each laptop. Simple, yet extremely useful ( I know we all have videos on YouTube ).

    Besides, I already spend way too much time cleaning the screen on my iPod Touch.

  • solipsism

    @ DED,
    Did you whip this up after reading Engadget’s poor blogging of such a potential leak last night? They really need some fact and spell checkers over there!

    I like your use of the calculator on the MBP. That shows a particular use. There could so many widgets/apps that I could flick through on the trackpad like I do with photos on the iPhone without affecting what I have on the main screen.

    Other uses could be like SideShow on a notebook where the main the computer could be off for a flight and you can access RSS, Mail, and even iTunes on the small display without having to run a full version of Mac OS X to get simple functionality.

    Or it could be used as a Wacom-like pad. Giving photoshop, Aperture and other professional users a actual display to interact with.

    @ Scott,
    That means it would requires an odd shaped device that ruins the aesthetics, adds bulk, uses more power than it should as you now have the entire Touch as just a trackpad, and it won’t work if you detach your Touch from the machine.

    Apple has already increased the use of the trackpad from one touch to dual touch to multi-touch with gestures so I don’t see how adding more input options with output options would seem farfetched for any readers here.

    Here are a couple of machines that have multi-use trackpads. Only the cPad is dynamic.
    • Asus M70 — http://laptoplogic.com/data/reviews/images/221/m70_trackpad.jpg
    • Toshiba 5105-s607 using Synaptic cPad — http://lct.informaworld.com/lct/uploads/vol11_iss2_socnews__keypad.jpg

    @dallasmay,
    Your estimates are for all PC sales, not consumer PC sales that are over $1000. That is where the real money is made.

  • solipsism

    Ahead of its time and destined for obscurity:
    “With Synaptics’ revolutionary cPad, Toshiba’s new notebook offers an array of features and functionality to its users. Some of cPad’s features include an application launcher, wallpaper, sticky notes, signature input, and calculator. By using the Synaptics’ cPad driver software, which is bundled with the Satellite 5105-S607 notebook, users can customize their cPad to take advantage of features such as wallpaper images, short cuts, tap zones and scrolling.
    “As a leader in mobile computing, Toshiba recognizes the need to incorporate new technology that enhances the efficiency of the user,” said Oscar Koenders, vice president of product marketing, Toshiba Computer Systems Group. “Toshiba is proud to be the first notebook vendor to embrace the unique cPad interface, delivering convenience and performance to our customers.”
    “Utilizing Synaptics’ capacitive ClearPad touch sensing technology, the cPad serves as both a navigation device for cursor control, and as a platform for interactive information display. cPad integrates a ClearPad sensor with a 240×160 pixel liquid crystal display and an EL-backlight. cPad communicates directly with the host computer via a standard USB interface that is fully compatible with the standard Microsoft mouse driver.
    “Synaptics has developed a cPad API that allows both OEMs and third-party developers to build unique software solutions to add custom functionality and features to the cPad.”
    March 4, 2002
    http://www.shareholder.com/synaptics/ReleaseDetail.cfm?ReleaseID=73527

  • scstsut

    The multitouch surface doesn’t have to be a display. The entire lower half of the macbook (where the keyboard normally is) could be a multitouch surface without display. The keyboard would be virtual and could be drawn on the surface as a guide or not. With multitouch the software could even determine what letter you meant to touch and adjust the strike zone for the letters (for example, my little finger goes right between the “p” and “[” keys; that could be adjusted the same way the iPhone keyboard adjusts the strike zone size depending on the probability of the next letter).

    Of course the whole surface would then be a multitouch track pad almost a foot square!

  • nat

    You know, this sort of reminds me of Dan’s predictions and mock-ups for the original iPhone. They were good, but Apple exceeded those expectations.

    At the same time, I’m reminded of the recently discovered Apple filing for what people first presumed was the fabled Mac tablet:
    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/08/28/apple_details_next_gen_multi_touch_techniques_for_tablet_macs.html

    Perhaps we’re thinking too small and Apple is going to strip out the keyboard and trackpad area for a touch display that, while smaller than the main display, allows for a greater wealth of possibilities than what a trackpad could offer.

    I think this is one of the hardest product transitions to speculate on, isn’t it? :D

  • http://www.reemergemedia.com CW

    Daniel,

    I believe you’re right on this but it’ll be even more. Instead of just a glass trackpad I believe the entire trackpad/keyboard surface will be replaced with iPhone-like capabilities in the laptop line. Sure, it’ll cost a lot because the surface would be larger than your iPhone/iPodT; but “significantly cutting the [consumer] costs” just to get something like this into the market I believe is was Apple meant. A glass trackpad w/ multi-touch, whoop-dee-doo, but an entire surface. Now that’s something game-changing. Wasn’t it posted somewhere that the multi-touch tech could detect palms resting? Think of all the real estate you would gain with such a transformation? No more wasted space where your palms rest today.

    This will then pave the way and leave room in the market for a tablet-like device too. What about the iMac? Just like the full multi-touch keyboard surface in the laptop line, you break that out as a keyboard/surface peripheral for the iMac. Makes total sense on how to incorporate multi-touch into EVERY product line. Because if that’s where we’re going, multi-touch, and it is, you’re going to need to introduce aspects of it into each of your products. This is just the beginning.

  • LuisDias

    I agree with khurt. It’s a gimmick, and not that useful. Why put gadgets near your keyboard, when you already got them where you are looking at (hint: the screen)? Why spend 60$ on the hardware plus all the R&D at the software, risk creating a space that doesn’t exist on other computers (diminishing its value to software developers), to build anything that is only a gimmick?

    The current multitouchpad is brilliant, and way underhyped. Very slick, doesn’t stand out from the general design, and keeps your eyes focused on the screen, where they should be. It has the correct size, shape and proportions and benefits from the fact that most laptops already have touchpads, (only not multi-touch pads) so that the general pop isn’t forced to engage in a totally new useless gimmick that adds nothing in return for your cash and attention.

    The only way multitouch pads get a lcd is through a complete lcd in the keyboard face, like that preview of OLPC v2 laptop. Then, it will generate a very wide and promising array of new functions (like for instance, use it as a book) that I can hardly imagine. I doubt Apple can pull that off such Trekky fantasy just yet, though. But hey, if they could pull off a screen of that size under just 200$, I can easily imagine MacBook Touch, son of “Air”, starting with a cost of 1999$, and it would fly.

  • lmasanti

    For the iMac you must convert it in a real [resting] desktop device.
    It wil have no stand: it will lay plane (it is lighty oblique) over the desktop, resting on it, and you’ll interact as with a book or sketch pad… horizontally and with your fingers! Just back to kindergarden!

    As for portables, I like the “pocket book sized”, two displays/one touch and convertible to an ebook reader!

  • solipsism

    I’m amazed by the responses that say this natural transition can’t be useful but then say that completely foregoing a physical keyboard for a touchscreen makes sense. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Daniel clearly outlined devices that have useful multi displays/inputs.

    Some things he didn’t touch on were:
    • Wacom-like interface that allows for a stylus to be used. There are many native , professional apps that could benefit from being able to use such a device that would also show you what you are editing drawing on the screen you are doing it on. Some want this on the man display but putting it o a vertical screen is combursome and far from natural.

    • Daniel mentioned widgets and shows a calculator in one pic. This is one of the firs GUI apps ever created and its never felt right on a notebook. Without a proper number pad the layout is difficult, you either have linear placing of the numbers at the top, an oddly placed, makeshift number pad when you use the Num Lock key (does anyone use this) or you have to use the mouse. Having this as a touchscreen would be such a benefit in and of itself. But there are so many other widgets that could benefit.

    • Trackpads are already being used for other things like scrolling and and volume controls. Asus has a model that has music player functions built in. It’s a static display but it does add a useful feature that should not be overlooked.

    • The trackpad would also make a lot of sense for Powerpoint/Keynote presentations. You could have the commands be displayed on the trackpad for you.

    • If this were to follow SideShow’s system you could keep Mac OS X from running while you are able to use you Mac notebook as an iPod for times you want limited functionality but want to conserve battery life.

    • GarageBand and other professional music apps could have small piano, drums, guitar chords, etc. Those seem gimmicky but sliders for an Equalizer would be great.

    • The only “gimmicky” app I can think of from this technology would be fingerprint authentication, but I don’t think that this setup would come close to being sensitive enough to determine the user’s identity.

    Just look to the iPhone or Touch for apps that are more natural on those devices because of the direct interaction with the user’s finger and you can see so many possibilities for this helping your productivity.

  • Tardis

    Daniel, I am sure that you know better than anyone outside Apple that they COULD do what this article suggests, or even some of the alternatives that commenters have suggested, but do you have any reason to think that Apple WILL do this?

    If you use a MacBook Air, you will become used to “pinching and twirling” the trackpad, but in this sense it is completely different from an iPhone or iPodTouch. Rather than looking at your fingers manipulating an image on a display, it is more like using a mouse or keyboard, where you are looking at the screen not your fingers.

    I am sure you are right that Apple will continue to use technologies developed for the iPod or iPhone to be introduced to and improve the Mac and vice versa. I thought the way that you described they would do this was a nice idea, but I also thought that if “PearPad” for the iPhone does what is described, or if “the entire trackpad/keyboard surface will be replaced with iPhone-like capabilities” (could be B&W only?) that idea would not be necessary.

    Meanwhile, there are other ways that Apple can deliver iPhone capabilities to Mac laptops, the most obvious being a mobile internet connection. You can explain the possibilities, you can speculate about how this might work, but right now, the only way that this would work is an agreement between Apple and service providers.

    Similarly, anything Apple may be able to do in delivering Music or Movie services depends on content providers.

    In the future, it may be the case that Apple can offer these capabilities from iPhones, Macs, iPods or Apple TV’s and service or content providers can supply them as they choose, but as long as Apple is pioneering these services, it has to be able to show both sides of the deal before people will sign up for it. I do not have any reason to believe that Apple can deliver any of this this year. Do you?

  • nat

    One thing to consider is that while Apple wants to make their Mac laptops more compelling, they don’t want to make them so compelling that people might forego the purchase of an iPhone or iPod touch in favor of one of these laptops.

    That’s why my earlier suggestion (echoed by others here and by some of the tech media) about replacing the trackpad and keyboard area with a MultiTouch display smaller than the main display, but larger than the iPhone’s display might NOT be such a good idea, and why Dan’s proposition seems more realistic. His guess would have a much lower risk of cannibalizing iPhone/iPod touch sales because the MultiTouch screen replacing the trackpad would be the same size used in the iPhone/iPod touch.

    Before reading this article, I figured Apple would simply give their MacBook/Pros the same over-sized MultiTouch static trackpad as the MacBook Air’s, slimming them down a bit with tapered edges, but now, it does seem as though Apple will present something far more impressive and clever. It’ll tie in MultiTouch in some fashion, I just don’t know how.

  • LuisDias

    Solipsism,

    Be amazed at your own peril. All you have shown in your rationale is that such an “amazing” over-the-top gimmick would be useful to put… a calculator on. Wow, that’s… not amazing. Wacom style tablets are the size of A4s, at minimum, A5s. I had one, so I know. And so you could put extra commands in there… not amazing features. Even in my old win-XP pc, whenever I want to make a presentation of sorts, my computer can distinguish between the presentation screen and the laptop’s screen. It was never used, but it could be. That’s a software problem, not a hardware one, so there.

    I can see the usefulness of having slides on there. Sound slides, etc. But that’s hardly a revolution, it’s a gimmick. And Apple hates gimmicks, that’s MS business.

    There’s the main flaw of having two screens where you should only have one. I don’t like to go up and down with my eyes. I work with my hands on one face (keyboard) and with my eyes in the other (LCD screen), and there isn’t a calculator sufficiently “killer-apped” for me to change my behavior.

    I don’t think I’m wrong, too. I just don’t look forward to this over-the-top lunacy to come in the next installments of MBP or MBA.

  • LuisDias

    …And this idea that MBs are going to cannibalize Ipod Touch’s market is simply… not even wrong.

    (Sorry for taking over the discussion. Normality ensues)

  • dave123456

    Sorry, I don’t understand the ergonomics of this (aside from the fact that it will look like ass, as your own mockup shows). They simply don’t work.

    The usage of the iPhone and a trackpad are totally different- the iPhone works because you can hold it up to eye level and use it comfortably- you never lay it flat on your desk to manipulate. Do you? So that begs the question of how you will use this LCD trackpad- hunched over your laptop so you can see it, or do you hold the laptop up in front of your eyes- unbelievably unwieldy and uncomfortable. Are you then darting your eyes back and forth from the tiny screen to the large one, to see what’s going on? If you are just moving your fingers and looking at the input on the laptop screen, there is no requirement of an LCD.

    I do not see the point or the advantage here. If it screws with the ergonomics, Apple won’t do it. Much better to simply have a new touchpad that recognizes all the multi-touch gestures beyond what the Air now recognizes.

  • stefn

    Great article, Daniel. All the design vectors you mention are right on:
    * Smaller
    * Thinner
    * Lighter
    * More graphical interface
    * Less mechanical, keyboard based interface
    * Stronger convergence of Apple’s GUIs and devices

    So I like the two screen idea but prefer the versions above using two full screens on a smaller footprint. Why? A couple more vectors:
    * More powerful, simple, communication GUI, which is now the predominant use.
    * Even less mechanical GUI with the elimination of the keyboard.

    And an added more intuitive factor:
    * Appropriation of the book and journal metaphors as form factor.

    * A screen based keyboard is all we need on the road. For industrial uses, a full sized keyboard can be plugged in, just as with desktops. Make keyboards, not multitouch, the option.
    * A screen based drawing board has tons of uses, as the article describes.
    * On a book sized footprint, the multitouch would allow the user to turn the laptop sideways to create a two page book spread, automatically. Wow.

  • kimball

    I’m sure none of the critics of this post ever look at their hands while using the keyboard! Also, I’m sure their field of vision includes every element on their 17-24″ desktop screens, requiring zero eye movement. If its true you don’t look down now, its because there is nothing to look at! And it is as trivial to glance down at the trackpad and keyboard as it is to glance up at the menu bar or the clock.

    A calculator is only one example of where a mouse interface sucks and where a touch interface would shine, but there are many other instances where the point and click interface is less than ideal. Tell the control surface industry, who make hundreds of different audio related controls that the slider is a gimmick! The mouse is a poor substitute for volume sliders. And there are many other potential interactions that can be made better through visual multi-touch, as well as simple gestural multi-touch like the MacBook Air already employs.

    Multi-touch on the iPhone is about usability, and any Apple implementation of multi-touch on the MacBook line will similarly be about enhancing usability, not about gimmicks. What concerns me is consistency of interaction. I want to have access to the trackpad as a trackpad whenever I want, so there would have to be a great way to switch between different trackpad modes.

    Nothing could be a more natural progression than the LCD trackpad. Good post.

  • designguy

    @ CW

    I already commented on dual large screens, realistically of course it would not work.

    To expunge this matter fully though, Leopard does not have support for these features as yet. We can easily predict that it will not magically show up this close to Snow Leopard as well.

    Would be nice though, and eventually we will see something similar.

    @Khurt

    I am in contested agreement with you.
    You highlight a major thought on a “gimmick.” I was willing to go with Daniel at first on this one, but now I am having trouble quantifying this iPod Touch Screen.

    @LuisDias

    I agree with you on the MacBook Touch possibility down the road with the right OS support and screen pricing.

    @ Imasanti

    Hopefully we will get a “Surface” like product soon. iMac will never be this though as most users look forward at a screen, not down to a device. This setup would be very uncomfortable for extended reading and writing sessions.

    Maybe an iSlate Pro someday? :)

    @ Tardis

    Excellent arguments!

    @ Anyone…

    While I understand that there is a chip for handling touch detection on trackpads or screens, how will the OS use this information in a customized way? Widgets or assistive application support are all fine and dandy, but no support yet exists for this kind of feature.

    @Daniel

    How are you solving the OS support of this feature in short term, non-Snow Leopard?

    Great Arguments everyone!

  • nat

    Another thought, just trying to narrow things down. Take a look at this picture:
    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/mac/macbookair/review/trackpad2.jpg

    Given that size difference, would Apple essentially go backwards in terms of trackpad size from the Air’s oversized MultiTouch pad to the iPod touch’s smaller and narrower MultiTouch screen? Or will they use a larger MultiTouch screen that fits the parameters of the Air’s static MultiTouch pad?

    I also have to say it doesn’t make sense to completely dismiss Dan’s prediction out of hand. Look at the iPhone’s phone menu when talking to someone: pull it away from your ear and you’ll see a very useful, intuitive arrangement of buttons for putting people on hold, turning on speaker phone, and most notably (imo) the merge call button. Other phones had similar functionality of course, but Apple made it so slick and easy, my grandma could figure it out. It feels like Dan is on the right track, but perhaps he’s expecting too much. Maybe a MultiTouch screen trackpad replacement would offer more universal benefits, rather than his fairly specific tasks.

    designguy, maybe they’ve been building in hidden support all along, like how they made Mac OS X compatible with Intel processors without anyone’s knowledge. :D

  • gus2000

    If nothing else, RoughlyDrafted is stretching my vocabulary…I had to look up “gewgaw”. (It means “showy trifle” or “worthless bauble” for anyone else mystified.)

  • nat

    Hey, at the very least, a MultiTouch screen would put the largely neglected/forgotten (by most users) Widgets. It would be a similar move to how they turned .Mac, a service most people couldn’t see the value in, into a “push” communications service with slick web apps and strong iPhone/iPod touch integration.

  • nat

    Argh, meant to say this would “put the largely neglected/forgotten (by most users) Widgets TO GOOD USE.”

  • PerGrenerfors

    Let’s not forget about ergonomics. I think that you should keep your eyes on the screen at all times when you’re working. People who do a lot of number crunching should get an external numeric keyboard. I do think that more advanced trackpads are the way to go but they should be non-reflective so that light and image from the main screen of the laptop is not reflected into the user’s eyes. Without doubt this idea would really set Apple’s hardware apart but I’m not sure it would live up to the user experience that Apple lives and dies by.

    I must say that Daniel’s speculations are some of the best on the internet and I’ve always enjoyed reading them. It’s nice to read this kind of articles without having to constantly roll your eyes.

  • lukeskymac

    I don’t get it. I think it would be easier to transform the keyboard in a giant touchscreen, so that specific programs would have specific keys ( This would be particulary great for games).

    If Apple won’t do it because there are some whinners complaining about the touch, why don’t make use of that patent… The one which described the keyboard as having LEDs, and the keys were adaptive to the current program.

    But I prefer a touchscreen keyboard anyways, specially with all of those features described in other patents…

  • solipsism

    lukeskymac wrote, “If Apple won’t do it because there are some whinners complaining about the touch, why don’t make use of that patent… The one which described the keyboard as having LEDs, and the keys were adaptive to the current program.”

    It may be all futuristic to have a large, flat sheet of glass to type on but it won’t make the user more productive (which goes against the whole reason for technological advancements). As for OLEDs in the keys they are still too limited in functionality and way too costly. Consider that Daniel put this article out today as it’s now something that is technologically possible, whether you like the idea or not, yet in 2002 Toshiba and Synaptic had a working, selling notebook with a dynamic touchpad. I think dynamic OLED keys will be standard on keyboards, but not for many years.

  • Realtosh

    @ danieleran & John Muir

    danielerean says, “…more closely associate its Macs with the iPhone brand, and jump from today’s 8 to 10% of the US market to a figure closer to 30% within just a year.”

    That’s a tall order. Apple can do it but not by staying only in the $1,000 – $3,000. You, yourself tell us why, “We already know Apple has 66% of the consumer-oriented retail market for machines above $1000 in the US; why not take the rest?”

    If Apple already owns 66% of the over $1,000 laptop market, they can’t triple their unit shipments by concentrating only in the premium space that they already dominate. There aren’t that many units in the premium space left that they’re not already getting. They have 66%. If they get the remaining 33-34%, that would only be an increase of 50%, and that’s counting on Apple selling every single laptop sold over $1,000. I’m very bullish on Apple; but I won’t hold my breath, nor do I recommend that you stop breathing either waiting.

    Apple wants to grow, so they have to grow into the markets that are available. To achieve the kind of incredible unit growth that you’re dreaming about, Apple would have to tackle the under $1,000 market as well. It’s just this kind of assault on the under $1,000 market that would impact margins, as Apple has warned.

    I’m sure that Apple will add functionality to current product line-up. That’s an easy call ’cause they’ve been doing it since forever. That LCD trackpad sounds cool and echoes John Muir’s idea of dual screens.

    I don’t doubt that Apple would add more touch to their products. Touch is a wining input interface. I was enamored of the idea when John shared it with us earlier. I still don’t dislike the idea, as you share a modified version with us now.

    But both your idea, and John’s earlier one of the dual screens, to me to think. The dynamism and flexibility of the input displays is not only so futuristic, yet it also already lives in the iPhone. But on the iPhone the visual input lives on the main display screen. On the iPhone this is partly to economize space since the iPhone has a much smaller screen. But also, it makes sense to put a visual input where you are already looking, which is the display.

    I could see this feature added to the main screen. As John’s idea mentioned, the screen would replace not only the trackpad but also the keyboard. Note how you don’t look at your trackpad when you use it; you’re usually looking at the screen. Adding visual to the track pad actually confuses the visual field. By omitting the trackpad and keyboard, not only would you not have to look up and down constantly as you tried to use the visual trackpad, but you’d lose the whole bottom half of the laptop. You would be left with a slate/tablet/ personal computing device/ whatever you want to call it.

    This unified form factor would lend itself better to the visual input that both you and John mention, and that gets us all excited. The visual input and the display are together, just like on the iPhone. Splitting them up like on a laptop would be taking a modern interface and sacrificing its simplicity and ease of use to maintain an old form factor that may not lend itself as easily to visual input. Maybe it makes more sense to keep the visual and the input together even in larger devices.

    In order to keep the product pricing reasonable and maintain some profitability, the screen would likely have to be on the smaller side, laptop-wise. This smaller size would also add to the device’s portability, yet give it enough heft that it would lend it self to applications for which the iPhone can be uncomfortably small. The device would show maps better, allow easier reading of email, double as a book reader, and a media device for not only music but also movies and video, and additional games. The form factor would lend itself to books and movies, and would allow for higher resolution games would not fit on the iPhone.

    The simpler unified device would not only have fewer parts, but would also be cheaper. This new form factor device, besides getting a futuristic touch interface make-over, might also be able to get positioned as an under $1,000 device. It could even have a slightly smaller form factor, which would not only be cheaper to source touch screens for, but allow for a profitable futuristic product under $1,000. Apple would have profitability, even if at margins slightly less than they’ve been getting recently; ergo the conference call warnings.

    You’re smelling out the more interesting technologies; your conclusions might not yet be fully worked through. None of us can be sure which one of us is right, but it’s a bunch of fun trying to analyze the right match of available technologies, Apple’s strengths and the potential markets for the imagined products.

  • Brau

    Glad to see you noted the need for “differentiation” where sales are concerned as it is a prime factor. If a product doesn’t have clear differentiation, then the only thing any maker can compete with is price. That is exactly the conundrum the Windows assemblers face as they try desperately to create upscale products; the buyer opens an expensive laptop, sees Vista, and questions whether the elevated price tag is really worth more than a cheap-ass Dell when they both run the same OS the anyway. In this situation almost all buyers will opt for the much cheaper Dell.

    Conversely, with any Mac, a buyer can justify a slightly higher price because they know the Mac OS has some distinct advantages/differences, plus it can run all OSes natively or simultaneously via Parallels. As long as the sticker price is within industry norms, Apple does not have to lower its price to entice buyers.

  • stefn

    @designguy
    “To expunge this matter fully though, Leopard does not have support for these features as yet. We can easily predict that it will not magically show up this close to Snow Leopard as well.”

    Love to know how you know these things.

  • solipsism

    @ stefn,
    I’m curious how he knows the interworkings of Cupertino, too. The MBA’s trackpad is a prime example of Apple releasing new HW to go along with new software.

  • designguy

    Thanks you for the forum Daniel, we really have an excellent space in witch to exchange ideas and information.

    @ stefn

    After posting I was afraid that someone would say that. LOL.

    I was trying to explain that with Apple busily working on Snow Leopard and tweaking the iPhone SDKs, there would be no time for them to push this feature out. Apple historically has not released a new OS software feature prior to an OS upgrade. Surmising, unless Apple has been building support into the OS all along, then the earliest this “touch” feature could materialize, would be Snow Leopard.
    Thanks nat, we never know. :)

    @ everyone

    I have a question though…

    Would it seem simpler for Apple to scale an iPhone up to a slate, or shrink a Mac Book Air to a tablet?
    I believe the answer to this question also completes the product lineup for Apple, unveiled at the 2009 Mac Expo in January. So if they do we might be able to acquire one around June 09? LOL

    At this point it is speculation, but we all know that Apple will eventually create such a device. The marketplace is in need of a true slate that until the iPhone, was not easily conceived of or implemented.

    The interesting part of this slate device concept, would it be locked to AT&T (assuming 3G), and will it be subsidized to bring it in below the $1,000 price point?

    Thoughts???

    Happy Labor Day

  • designguy

    @ solipsism

    True, the MBA’s trackpad is a good example.

    The problem with this theory is not a simple broadcom chip replacement and software updates though. To support such a screen feature, the OS itself would need an API for this.
    Otherwise, only Apple related components would be truly supported by this feature.

    I am not saying that I am correct, simply thinking out the capabilities in an intellectual manner. I am using common sense to rule out or at least ground certain ideas.

    It seems ridiculous (not impossible), that Apple would commit these resources with impending hardware and software updates.

    Somebody help me with this, as the pool gets deep around here.
    Is the built in multi-touch Safari support for the MBA’s trackpad, handled by webKit like on the iPhone?
    Someone help me shed some light on the back-end of the MBA’s multi-touch application support.

    Stating something that exists in part (aka, MBA’s trackpad), does not imply that a full featured advancement can operate on the same underlying chip controller.

    All I ask, is that my critics provide some concept of how Apple would support such a feature.

    @ Daniel

    Maybe you can help with the gaps on this?

  • nat

    @ designguy

    Well, earlier I suggested that such a MultiTouch display might provide more universal abilities, rather than such specific (and kind of predictable) uses like Dan’s maps, calculator and Widgets integration.

    Examining the MacBook Air’s current MultiTouch static trackpad, why makes it useful? It enables intuitive MultiTouch gestures within some applications (only Apple-designed apps like iTunes, iPhoto, Preview, Safari, Finder, right?). So at the very least, a MultiTouch screen would provide the same basic funtionality. They sure as heck ain’t dropping MultiTouch support after implementing it in the Air and Pro. :D

    So, what additional functionality would a MultiTouch screen in place of a static trackpad offer? Before you think about that, remember, at its core, this little MultiTouch screen must retain its trackpad functionality. An always-on control panel won’t be acceptable or practical because you still have to be able to single-click to close windows, to start applications, to click on links on a web page, a ton of things. If there were a little launch pad, comparable to the iPhone’s Home screen, it would have to turn on when useful and turn off when not. That’s the problem I have with the concept, it’s just like the Dashboard: you only see it when you click on its icon in the Dock, hit a hot key, press a physical button on the keyboard, etc. Would Apple implement such a unique input device that might only be used on occasion, like the Dashboard? I kind of doubt it.

    So there have to be more universal uses that would offer more than the current static MultiTouch pad, without getting overly specific or complex. Examples? Ask Apple. :D

  • nat

    Oops, meant to say “Examining the MacBook Air’s current MultiTouch static trackpad, what makes it useful?”

  • dicklacara

    @everybody

    This, visual multi-touch, delivered across the product line (computers, iPods, iPhones) may be the reason that the NDA has not, yet, been lifted from the iPhone SDK. Sharing of OS X features between platforms is not a one-way street.

    Delivery of “Visual Multi-touch” may take the form that Daniel suggests, may be a separate device (touch display/keypad) or even a new form factor of a computer that consists of two (or more) MT Displays.

    A portable with this form factor could have 2 MT displays, hinged like a book. The user could deploy the screens: Both vertical, both horizontal, one horizontal and one vertical– or even back to back.

    Apple could reduce the dimensions of computing device while increasing the total display size and data entry surface size.

    Think of the applications: A smallish portable could fold out to deploy as a 2-level 8-octave piano keyboard… or a custom equalizer… or a security monitor/control panel… or a light table… or a super gaming console… or a totally new A/V viewer… or… or… or…
    I hope that Apple does this– those who want or need a traditional keyboard/mouse can opt for a low-cost option.

  • AlanAudio

    To those who say that having two screens to look at is an unworkable solution, I would suggest that you take a look at the Nintendo DS lite.

    It has two screens, one of which is touch sensitive and millions of people appear to be able to use them perfectly sensibly.

  • http://www.roughlydrafted.com danieleran

    I see this idea as so obvious that it’s simply mind blowing to consider that people might be opposed to it. So I have to stretch my brain to understand some of the criticisms. If I get your take wrong, be sure to correct me.

    A number of people have commented that this would require lots of extra effort and new APIs. No, MacBooks already have a USB multitouch trackpad input; this one would be no different. Macs also have a way to manage multiple displays, right? That’s been around since the late 80s. You plug in a monitor and it maps out a display for it. There is NOTHING NEW HERE. :P

    So now, instead of having a trackpad that allows you to only enter touch/click/drag gestures while looking at the screen, you can also have a display below your fingertips that (get this) works just like the iPhone.

    This isn’t embedding a separate CPU and/or subsystem into the laptop; it’s only enhancing the trackpad with immediate visual feedback. There is really zero Apple has to do here apart from plugging the display into the system. An additional small display would have zero impact on performance.

    As for presenting a user interface, again Apple already has an outrageously simply way to develop interactive, visual interface widgets. Dashboard widgets are little web pages made from HTML and given behaviors via JavaScript and appearance via CSS.

    You don’t have to write an API or a fancy app or a new development framework to build calculators, configurable input devices, or access a mini view of your Address Book or Calendar, or remotely control iTunes, or anything else that Dashboard widgets can already do.

    You could assign behaviors to the touch screen display so that it simply allows you to start up Dashboard widgets independent of the main display (a secondary Dashboard rather than a Dashboard overlay on the main display).

    There’s also plenty of room for getting fancier. You can add a Menu Bar-like series of controls as I illustrated, to give you fast access to things like volume settings or whatever else you might want to do. Perhaps kick off Sync or change your iChat status without navigating the mouse pointer to the top of the screen.

    And menus: you could drill through menus instantly just by doing a (say) fancy three fingered tap, which would pull up the pie menus I described earlier, allowing you to navigate the menu bar with your fingers rapidly, rather than coaxing the mouse pointer to the top edge of the screen and pulling down menus while holding down the mouse button. That’s an incredibly slow and precise effort.

    Think about how much faster it is to launch icons from the iPhone than from the “Apple Menu > Recent Items > Pick your app.” The menu bar needs to go away soon anyway, because displays are getting so big (and numerous) that it’s getting silly to have to search them out with the mouse pointer.

    And as for the complaints that this is a gimmick, well, it’s obviously a lot more practical than keys that light up, or a screen the SMSensor “SmackBook” that captured people’s attentions. The difference is that having an infinitely configurable, visual touch panel would solve a lot of problems for a lot of different users.

    Limited motion ability? Limited capacity to carry a Waccom tablet around with you? Want flexible touch control of sliders and knobs for whatever app you use? Playback controls for audio? Gestures for fancy shortcuts on text entry, or app launching, pinch/flick actions, etc.

    Also, I don’t know about you, but I don’t hold my iPhone up to my nose to use it. It’s the same distance from my face as my hands are when I’m typing.

    Going any further to replace the entire keyboard with a touch panel starts to make less sense because: 1) people like mechanical keys. It is not very satisfying to touch type on a hard surface for long periods of time. 2) it would be prohibitively expensive.

    So this is both economical, obvious, easy to add, hard to copy, and a clear differentiator. And the downside? If you didn’t like having extra functionality at your finger tips, you’d be stuck with a trackpad that looked like a black piece of glass instead of a silver piece of aluminum
    (but you don’t ever look at your fingers anyway, right?)

    So for example, I could click on an address in a web page with Data Detectors, and send that address to a Maps widget on the trackpad screen so I can zoom around looking at the map with finger control. I then click a button to send the address to my Address Book, save it, and return to my web browser window on the main screen. Not having a touch screen means I’d have to spawn a new browser window at Google.com/maps, which doesn’t know how to send data to my Address Book, and doesn’t support rapid zooming around via touch. I have to pan around with my multitouch screen, and frequently the “scroll down” swipe is interpreted as “zoom in,” which I don’t want. Staying in the desktop is clumsy and stupid.

    Now I’m in iPhoto. If I have an Air, i can twirl the pic around from the multitouch trackpad. With an LCD touchscreen, I can pick a photo, sent it to the trackpad display, zoom in via touch, paint on it with my fingers, dodge/burn with my fingers, correct blemishes with my fingers, and then send it back to iPhoto. With a mouse or standard trackpad that’s clumsy. With a Waccom, I have a Waccom to carry around, and no immediate feedback.

    Now think about dialogs. I can optionally send dialogs to my touch screen window instead of popping up on my main display. So I can poke the Save button. Or the Proceed button. Or hit cancel. No mousing around. I can also rapidly transverse the file system by touch ; much faster than poking around with a mouse cursor or using arrow keys.

    Now I’m in a document, say in Keynote. The Inspector is in my trackpad window. I can be typing, select some text, and pick color and font right from my trackpad view based on smart contextual controls. Because it’s just another display, there’s no special support required to drag in your inspectors, so it works with any app. However, apps could also create specialized Widget-like controls optimized to input touch, such as a touch optimized Font panel.

    Now Spaces/Expose/Dashboard. I don’t use these much because it requires too much thinking about which keys to hit (and Apple keeps changing them). But if I could do a special gesture, say a two finger double tap, and get a visual menu of options that made it more initiative, I’d use them more.

    And if I’m in some special mode and want to quickly jump back into “move the mouse around mode,” it should be easy to escape back by hitting maybe a three fingered tap. These kind of gestures are far easier to remember than having to stop what you’re doing, focus on the keyboard, and recall which of the 100 keys does what you want to do. Quick, is Dashboard F12 or F11? I always have to hit each key till I hit the right one. And its such a visual break that I forget why I’m going there. I don’t think I’m the only person who is over 25 using Macs.

  • gus2000

    If you’re not supposed to look at your input device, why are the letters printed on the keyboard keys?

    Granted, there are no labels on the mouse buttons. But the ViewPad (or whatever they call it) only needs to be looked at when it needs to be looked at.

    The cell phone camera was a silly, superfluous addon until it wasn’t. Now it’s a requirement for a phone to even be taken seriously.

  • nat

    Daniel,

    Your examples are much appreciated. I get it now and it made me think more about gestures. I’m sure you’re aware of hot corners (though hearing your comments about Expose and such makes me question that; I just swipe my finger diagonally right upward and poof, all windows are visible, swipe right downward and woosh, my windows are pushed to the sides, Expose-ing my desktop), perhaps another more basic function, while in “standard mouse” mode, could be hot corners on the MultiTouch display itself (instead of having to oddly swipe the mouse to one of the primary display’s corners), or on a visual level, offering alt-tab fast app switching, with a little X on each one, like in Dashboard, for easy application quitting.

  • solipsism

    This patent I found from 2006 isn’t touch interface, it’s a clumsy mechanical overly, but it does show that Apple was at least partially concerned with the some of the limitations of the mouse as a pointer on the screen. It also shows that Apple was thinking about direct controls right where the trackpad is placed.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/06/11/16/apple_developing_mechanical_overlay_touch_interface.html

  • dicklacara

    Daniel

    I think your analysis is right on!

    But your prediction is too conservative!

    It is about time for SJ to do something really ballsy… time to outrage the world!

    Hell, I;m prolly too conservative too!

  • labrats5

    Yeah, I don’t believe it for a second. Not necessarily because I disagree with any one of your arguments for why it would be good, but because I can think of one really big reason for why it would be bad: a glass trackpad would simply work BAD as a trackpad. Way to much friction on glass for the pointer movement to be fluid enough to be pleasant and usable.

    I am almost 100 percent sure Apple won’t do this. However, if I’m wrong and you’re right (and as much as I hate to admit it, you are often right) I will send an email to you with a link of me eating my hat.

  • PerGrenerfors

    Daniel,

    You still did not address ergonomics in your respone to the comments. “Hey! It’s Apple! If they can’t think of a way, who can?” is not a valid argument.

    Wouldn’t you agree that a matte surface is better as a trackpad than a shiny? Try and put your iphone on the trackpad of your MacBook Pro when you’re working. Reflections are bad.