Over the years, Apple has added touchscreens to almost every computing device imaginable, from phones and tablets to smartwatches, but it has refrained from bringing the feature to its Mac product line – even as a long list of rivals did so with their laptops and desktops.
In 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs described the concept of a computer with a touchscreen – then an emerging trend among the company’s competitors – as “ergonomically terrible.” Two years later, CEO Tim Cook reiterated the sentiment during an earnings call. And Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior VP of software engineering, said in 2018 that “lifting your arm up to poke a screen is pretty fatiguing to do.”
But now, Apple may be rethinking its stance. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported Apple engineers are developing a touchscreen for the MacBook Pro with an expected launch date of 2025, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While it’s unclear if the touchscreen laptop will see the light of day, introducing the product could accomplish two important things for Apple: adapting to shifting consumer expectations and supercharging sales for its Mac product line.
Microsoft, HP, Samsung and Dell, have long offered computers with touchscreens, and more consumers have come to expect they can tap on a computer screen just as they do on their phones. (If you have a MacBook, you may have already had the experience of a friend or relative touching your screen reflexively thinking it would do something.)
At the same time, interest in Apple computers is booming, thanks in part to Apple’s inclusion of its new in-house processor that improved battery life and offered better performance. Mac revenue increased 14% in Apple’s 2022 fiscal year to $40.1 billion. Apple’s iPad business, on the other hand, saw sales decline from the prior year.
Apple has previously kept the touchscreen away from its Mac lineup to prevent it from cannibalizing iPad sales. Instead, Apple added a narrow touch bar to its MacBook keyboard to provide easy access to shortcuts, emoji and other features, but ultimately it did away with the tool after it was panned by users and critics.
Now, however, Apple could use a Mac touchscreen to incentivize consumers to upgrade their computers and keep Mac sales momentum growing.
ABI research director David McQueen, research director at ABI Research, said the lines are increasingly blurred between higher-end iPads and Macs, thanks to new chips, battery life and slim design. He noted that when a 12.9-inch iPad Pro is attached to a Magic Keyboard with use of an Apple Pencil, there is “not much to tell it apart from a laptop experience.”
“The market has embraced 2-in-1 laptop-tablet hybrids and maybe now Apple sees the rationale for also adding one to its armory,” he added.”
Apple, for its part, has softened its stance on Mac touchscreens more recently. When asked at a conference last fall if Apple will add a touchscreen to Macs, Federighi responded: “Who’s to say?”