Ever since the Apple iPad arrived in 2010, fans have wondered whether Apple would build a touchscreen MacBook, but year after year the company's top execs knocked the idea.
Introducing the 2010 MacBook Air, Steve Jobs said "touch surfaces don't want to be vertical" because of the fatigue users quickly feel stretching over the keyboard. He panned it as "ergonomically terrible".
Still, some fans want a touchscreen MacBook, as ZDNET's Jason Cipriani discovered recently, after using a Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio and enjoying the folding mechanism to move the screen from laptop to a flat tablet-like surface.
More on what professionals want from a touchscreen MacBook:
Apple could launch a touchscreen Mac in 2025, according to Bloomberg, and the laptop would retain the traditional trackpad and keyboard. Meanwhile, the move to OLED would bring MacBooks in line with the iPhone and Apple Watch, while the iPad Pro could get OLED in the first half of 2024.
Over the past decade, Apple execs have maintained Jobs' argument that touchscreen isn't suitable for the Mac, even as Windows OEMs made progress with touchscreen tablet-convertible laptops. Apple chief Tim Cook in 2012 panned Microsoft's early efforts to bring touchscreens to Windows 8 laptops as a "compromise".
Two years later, Craig Federighi, Apple senior vice president of software engineering concurred, saying the "Mac is sort of a sit-down experience" compared to the handheld iPad or iPhone experience. Federighi pointed out that Apple had instead focused on making the best touchpad for the MacBook.
But times have changed. Apple's Control Center now looks and behaves more like iOS and Apple has switched its Macs to its own silicon M1 and M2 chips, which in some cases are the same chips as in new iPads. Also, iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad already work on Apple silicon Macs, although users need to follow Apple's "touch alternatives" to interact with iOS apps. Then there are quirks in Apple's lineup. The iPad Pro with a Magic keyboard, for example, weighs more than the 2022 MacBook Air.
As Bloomberg notes, Apple may be compelled to reassess its old stance on touchscreen MacBooks for two key reasons: Apple's Mac business has grown to become a bigger moneymaker than the iPad, though that crossover happened in 2015. But also because 10 years after the first clumsy Windows 8 convertibles arrived, Apple's rivals -- including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and Acer -- are making much better touchscreen laptops.
Adding touchscreens could also give MacBook sales an extra boost amid an industry otherwise in decline after the 2020 surge in pandemic-related sales. For the past year, Macs have been the only brand in the PC category whose shipments have increased while the rest of the industry has seen PC shipmentsconsistently decline.
Notably, Apple is reportedly not looking to merge the iPad and Mac operating systems.