The long term story of the Touch Bar will be, I believe, that it is a productivity killer. This is certainly true whilst it is a novel technology with limited support from apps. But I think it will likely be true in the future too regardless of app support. This is for two reasons…
In the short term it will be impossible to use the Touch Bar without looking at the bar to see what buttons are available and where they are. In the long term that may also be true because software keys can’t be navigated by touch like physical keys can. So people who use the keyboard extensively in their workflows will be hindered by the removal of physical function keys as they will have to continually move their line of sight from their screens to the Touch Bar.
Even if someone can train themselves to use some functions without shifting visual focus to the Touch Bar there are other functions that require visual focus. For example, if you are in a word processing app part of the Touch Bar becomes word suggestions (like on iOS). You have to look at the word suggestions in order to check if you want to use any of them. Given the signalled mass migration of tech. professionals away from Macs on the back of the unveiling of the new MacBook Pros, most people using them will be people using regular word processing apps. So this will be a big part of the average user experience.
One thing that almost certainly won’t be corrected is the problem of the contextual nature of the Touch Bar. A different set of controls is displayed depending on which app is being used. On the one hand that is great for having dynamic controls that are appropriate to the app you are currently using. On the other hand you lose the global nature of function keys. A great example of useful global functionality is for music control. People often listen to music whilst doing other things on their laptops – like write documents, spreadsheets, or code. So you put some music on and continue writing your document. Then you want to skip a track, or change the volume. You can no longer access the required controls immediately because you are in the wrong context for those buttons. You need to pause your typing, switch back to Spotify or iTunes to get those controls, then change the track or volume, then switch back to your writing. It would have been difficult for Apple to make this process more intrusive.
Apple have released a laptop with a new component that inflated the cost by a few hundred dollars and simultaneously eats into people’s workflows so that they’re less productive and therefore less able to afford this expensive kit (hyperbole 🙂
I cannot think why Apple do something useful like make a new top end laptop with a full touch screen? Is anyone impressed with the Touch Bar? If you are add a comment here or on Google Plus. If you’re not you can add a comment too 🙂