Apple revamps MacBook Pro with Touch Bar: So long function keys for starting price of $1,799

Apple's MacBook Pro adds a Touch Bar and could boost the Mac's standing with core creative pros and enterprises.

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The Touch Bar is a multi-touch strip that replaces the function keys.

Apple unveiled a revamped MacBook Pro that features a new architecture, an aluminum design that's a half-pound lighter than current models, Touch ID, and a Touch Bar that integrates with the OS and apps.

Of those aforementioned items, the Touch Bar offers the biggest change. The Touch Bar is a multi-touch strip that replaces the function keys. The new MacBook Pro comes 25 years after Apple launched the PowerBook.

When incorporated with Apple's MacOS Sierra, the Touch Bar offers a changing menu that adapts to whatever app you're using. "For 25 years we've been defining and redefining what a notebook is and what it can do. Today we're going to do it again," said CEO Tim Cook.

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The incorporation of the Touch Bar is a unique spin that brings elements of touch without actually offering a touchscreen. The PC industry firmly believes in 2-in-1 devices, but Apple argues that the touchscreen is for the iPad. The MacBook doesn't have a touchscreen and likely never will.

Here's a look at the options. You can order now, with availability going into November.

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Apple had to get its large third-party software partners on board with the Touch Bar.

The walkthrough of Touch Bar was interesting given how it adapts by application, replicates what functional keys used to do, and highlights controls within an app. Apple had to get its large third-party software partners on board with the Touch Bar. For instance, two key demos with the Touch Bar was Final Cut Pro and Adobe PhotoShop. Microsoft Office will completely support Touch Bar.

These apps are for creative pros, enterprise, and Mac power users. A look at Photoshop with Touch Bar:

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Adobe Photoshop will completely support Touch Bar.

Here's how the Touch Bar adapts in email. Navigation and tab controls are also possible with previews of tabs in Safari. The Touch Bar can be customized easily.

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MacBook Pro at 13 inches is smaller than the MacBook Air.

Marketing chief Phil Schiller said that the MacBook Pro is 14.9mm thick and 17-percent thinner than the predecessor. The 15-inch version weighs 4 pounds, while the 13-inch MacBook Pro weighs 3 pounds. Apple is touting up to 10-hour battery life for MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro at 13 inches is smaller than the MacBook Air.

As for specs, the 15-inch MacBook Pro has up to 2TB SSD, Intel i7, and Radeon graphics from AMD. There are also new fan blades and thermal infrastructure. There are four Thunderbird ports, and they can be used for power, USB and display port.

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The high-end MacBook Pro fills out the top part of the Mac portfolio for Apple, with the MacBook Air occupying the entry level.

Will the MacBook Pro provide a growth engine for Apple? We'll see, but one thing is clear: the Mac refresh is important for Apple on multiple fronts.

Consider:

  • Apple's iPhone franchise is struggling with the law of large numbers. For instance, iPhone revenue in Apple's fourth quarter was $28.16 billion, down 13 percent from a year ago. Apple needs other product lines to do well.
  • The Mac still matters for Apple financially. Mac accounted for fourth quarter revenue of $5.74 billion, down 17 percent from a year ago. Apple hasn't updated the Mac all that frequently, so that explains a bit of the sales shortfall. For fiscal 2016, Mac delivered $22.83 billion in revenue. That sum is more than the $20.63 billion in sales from the iPad and just behind the $24 billion attributed to Apple's various services.
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Apple and the Mac has owned the creative crowd for decades.

  • If Apple is going to be a player in the enterprise, it needs the Mac. You can talk tablets and smartphones all you want, but real work still needs a laptop for most corporate workers.

And finally, Microsoft wants the Mac's turf. The Surface Studio unveiled Wednesday was an entry designed to court creative types. Microsoft is even calling its Windows 10 update the Creators Update. Apple and the Mac has owned the creative crowd for decades.

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