Apple’s new laptop gets more touchy, but not on its screen

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 28— Apple’s high-end laptop, the MacBook Pro, which hasn’t had a major overhaul in four years, is getting a little more like the iPhone.

Apple yesterday showed off new MacBook Pros that feature the Touch Bar, a touch-screen strip at the top of the keyboard that changes to display functions specific to the app being used.

The company also added its Touch ID function to the power button of the computers, allowing users to unlock the device or buy something with Apple Pay with the touch of a finger.

Both features are adapted from the iPhone, continuing Apple’s pattern of adding the features that make its smartphones so popular to its laptops. Last month, Apple released a software update that put its Siri voice assistant to the Mac.

“Mobile has focused us on simplicity,” said Julie Ask, a technology analyst at the Forrester research firm.

Apple executives announced the new MacBooks at a news conference at the company headquarters in Cupertino, California. Two days earlier, Apple reported declining revenue and profits for the quarter that ended in September. The number of Macs sold in the quarter dropped 14 per cent compared with a year ago.

The company is hoping that its new iPhones and other products, like the updated MacBooks, will return it to growth during the holidays.

The new MacBooks, which are thinner, lighter and faster than previous models, are primarily aimed at business customers and others who spend a lot of time on their computers, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research. “It’s about getting stuff done,” he said.

A new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar in a demonstration area during an unveiling at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 27, 2016.A new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar in a demonstration area during an unveiling at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California October 27, 2016.The cheapest model with the new Touch Bar, a 13-inch (33cm) machine, is US$1,800 (RM7,560), and the 15-inch version starts at US$2,400. Apple’s least expensive laptop, the ultralight Air, is unchanged and costs US$1,000, while competitors’ machines running Microsoft’s Windows typically cost US$500 or less. The models with the Touch Bar can be ordered now and will ship within the next few weeks.

Dawson said Apple’s strategy of putting more touch features on the keyboard is in sharp contrast to Microsoft, which unveiled a new desktop PC on Wednesday with powerful touch features on the display. “Apple wants you to keep your hands where they are,” he said.

The Touch Bar replaces the function keys at the top of the current laptop keyboards and pops up customised functions depending on the app. In Apple’s Photos app, for example, it allows users to perform simple editing and play videos. In the Mail app, the touch screen shows reply options, automatically suggests words and phrases and shows a menu of the user’s commonly used emoji.

“I do think it’s worth a moment for a requiem for the function key,” Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said after unveiling the Touch Bar.

The new laptops immediately drew some complaints from current Apple laptop users because they use a newer type of port, USB-C, that requires adapters to work with older accessories.

But Apple did keep the traditional headphone jack on the Macs, unlike its new iPhone 7 line.

Apple also previewed a new app for its Apple TV set-top box as well as iPhones and iPads. Called simply TV, the app, which will be released in December, will allow users to see in one place their favourite shows from the other video apps on their device. The app will also feature suggestions of new video content to watch, curated by Apple editors.

“We want Apple TV to be the one place to access all of your television,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said at the event.

The service is not quite there, since Apple has not yet signed on key streaming services such as Amazon’s Prime Video, and live television shows are still difficult to get access to on Apple TV. — The New York Times