A Touchscreen iMac: Can It Be Performed?

The iMac needs to be redesigned. It's an icon, but not much has changed in the past ten years. The good news? If the rumors are true, a redesign will come soon. Sure, it could be a simple facelift, but what if Apple has something bigger in store?

A touchscreen Mac has long been a collective call from some Apple fans, but not mine. I'm still not enthusiastic about a MacBook with a touchscreen. But what if Apple could take design elements from the iPad Pro and get them up and running on a new iMac? Now there is a concept that catches my attention.

Was Steve Jobs right about touchscreens?

Apple has long denied that it is interested in bringing touch functionality to its Macs, although it has applied for patents for the technology since at least 2010. In the same year, Steve Jobs described touchscreen laptops as "ergonomically awful" and said: "After a short time you will start to tire and after a long time your arm will fall off. "

On this point, I have approved jobs the longest. Reaching a screen all the time is not just a (literal) pain, it is turning your display into a mess that needs to be cleaned constantly. There is not even an urgent need for touchscreen functions – the gestures built into MacOS accomplish many of the same functions that a touchscreen would offer. It's far from perfect, but the touch bar even fills some of the gaps MacOS gestures left behind.

But then there's Apple Silicon. At the company's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple announced that iPhone and iPad apps on Apple Silicon Macs would work immediately without translation or recoding. These apps are already optimized for a touchscreen experience. When Apple says they'll work perfectly on future Macs, touchscreens seem like a no-brainer.

Touchscreen iMac concept. Photo credit: ADR StudioTouchscreen iMac concept. Photo credit: ADR Studio

Given Apple's reluctance in the past to do this, it may not be advisable to move the farm to the next iMac with a touchscreen display. Finally, Apple manager Craig Federighi said in 2018: “We believe that ergonomics when using a Mac is that your hands rest on a surface and that raising your arm to hit a screen is quite exhausting do."

This point of view is good and nice if the surface you touch is vertical. But what if it wasn't? Here, an iPad-inspired touchscreen iMac could work around this problem. By creating a much more comfortable, angled surface – one that you stand over like a drawing table so you don't have to lift your arms – the whole dynamic changes.

Apple has already created the surrounding ecosystem that allows a touchscreen iMac to thrive. There is the Apple Pencil, which is already excellent on the iPad Pro. There is the company's ProMotion technology, which automatically adjusts the screen refresh rate to 120 Hz for brilliant smoothness.

But now, more than ever in the past 20 years, it really feels like the parts are coming together for a touchscreen Mac. This is hardly wishful thinking for me because I was always against the idea. So far, I haven't seen a compelling example of how it would improve the current crop of Macs without your arms falling off.

Two completely different products best demonstrate this concept. The iPad Pro and the Surface Studio – both with floating screens and interesting ergonomics.

iPad meets surface

Microsoft Surface Studio 2Dan Baker / Digital Trends

Let's start with the Surface Studio. It is one of Microsoft's most ambitious design experiments and serves as the perfect template for a new direction for a new iMac. With a magical hinge, the Surface Studio transforms from a standard all-in-one PC into a fully-fledged drawing area in a matter of seconds. In combination with peripheral devices such as the Surface Pen and the Surface Dial, it was possible to create a 28-inch screen in a natural way for touch input.

Of course, Apple doesn't just want to steal this design. But the iPad Pro, which is housed in the new Magic Keyboard case, seems familiar to me. It resembles a scaled-down version of Microsoft Surface Studio for the whole world, with a healthy portion of iMac aesthetics. Scale that to iMac size and we would have a really tempting touchscreen Mac.

The technology is brilliant – a set of magnets in the Magic Keyboard case that are strong enough to hold the iPad Pro upright. The case uses a cantilever hinge at its base and a folded seam about a third of the way up; Your iPad Pro appears to be angled at the right angle. Do you see where I'm going with this?

Andy Boxall / DigitalTrends.com

Now imagine the same technology that is built into an iMac. Instead of the current design, in which the body of the computer is attached with a rigid arm, Apple could be inspired by the iPad Pro. With an enlarged version of the cantilever hinge, we would finally have an iMac whose height and position could be adjusted during operation (no, you still can't. Would you like to increase the height of your iMac now? Books).

But why stop there? The 2010 Apple Touchscreen iMac patent includes an illustration showing the computer being pulled down at a 45-degree angle. A cantilever hinge could be an integral part of it, reflecting the flexibility of the Surface Studio, while Apple can claim it found its inspiration in the iPad Pro rather than Microsoft's amazing device (sure, Apple, we believe you).

There is more. There is much speculation that the iPhone 12 will adopt the design language of the iPad, with flat edges reminiscent of the iPhone 5 and earlier. But what if the same inspiration found the way to the upcoming redesign of the iMac? It could be the biggest – and most exciting – move from Apple's desktop all-in-one in almost a decade.

In fact, there are already indications that this could soon become a reality. As the software designer Jordan Singer found, the rounded corners in MacOS Big Sur fit almost perfectly on the iPad Pro and its smooth edges. That doesn't mean that MacOS will be ported to the iPad shortly, but that Apple could develop a new design language for the Mac that takes over the rounded corners of the iPad Pro and brings it to the iMac. After all, the software will soon use these design conventions – shouldn't the iMac hardware do the same?

Now that Apple has developed a compelling “floating” design for the iPad Pro and gives MacOS Big Sur rounded corners, the tide could turn on a redesigned touchscreen Mac. If Apple can put these concepts into practice, I would be more excited about an iMac than I have been for years.

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