New MacBook Pro Technology Reveals An Apprehensive Apple – Forbes

The critically acclaimed MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has fragmented the macOS base. Is Apple serious about rolling out the new technology across the macOS range, or is the Touch Bar, TouchID and the associated secure enclave destined to be another dead-end for Tim Cook and his team?

To be accepted the Touch Bar needs to avoid the fate of 3D Touch – a cute addition to iOS that can be used for secondary functions but one that can never be relied on to be present in a device. The technology is included in the iPhone 6S and iPhone 7 families, but is not present on the iPad or iPad Pro machines. It can also be found in the trackpads of the MacBook and MacBook Pro machines, but no developer can put a function under 3D Touch and not have it accessible through other methods in the UI.

The same is true of the Touch Bar in macOS. Its inclusion on the high-end MacBook Pro machines offered a point of differentiation in the Apple Store, but no smart developer would provide unique functionality given the significant numbers of non-Touch Bar machines.

Paired up with the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro is the secure enclave. Similar in operation to that on the iPhone and iPad, it allows for various secure functions to be implemented on the laptops including the use of a TouchID sensor for user authentication. This offers developers some intriguing application options (especially at the Enterprise level) but until Apple can offer similar functionality across the full range of macOS hardware the Touch Bar enabled machines are little more than a fragment of the audience.

Apple CEO Tim Cook (R) previews a MacBook Pro during a product launch event at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California  (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

Apple appears to be taking steps towards reducing this self-inflicted fragmentation, albeit slowly. I was expecting to see a Magic Keyboard announced at WWDC with a built-in Touch Bar (as this Apple patent describes) which would have allowed the Touch Bar to be retrofitted through the BlueTooth keyboard to pretty much any macOS device. Instead Apple’s new keyboard was extended with a number-pad, but the Touch Bar patent and the potential are still there.

This isn’t the only step Apple is taking. Lurking inside the latest High Sierra beta release is code that suggests the secure enclave hardware from the MacBook Pros will be present in the iMac Pro. This desktop was announced at WWDC and is expected to be available before the end of the year. The inclusion of the secure enclave will increase the addressable base for developers, but there does not seem to be any hunger or passion from Apple to roll out the new technology with any pace.

The Touch Bar offered something new for the MacBook and macOS, but it remains a tantalising possibility rather than a sea-change in how users can interact with their machines. Apple did not capitalise on this potential at WWDC with new hardware and the next step forward for the Touch Bar is not likely to happen before the end of 2017.

Until then the Touch Bar, TouchID and secure enclave remain curiosities for macOS developers that create fragmentation between Apple’s hardware and software.

Now read about Apple’s patent for a Touch Bar enabled wireless keyboard…

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