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The new MacBook is the iPad's spirit animal, ports and all

Michael Simon | March 13, 2015
We may never see a Multi-Touch Mac. What seemed inevitable back in 2010 is no closer to fruition than it was then--OS X and iOS may share certain design cues and UX elements, but they're as far apart as the've always been. Nothing about the Yosemite redesign suggests touch is being considered in the slightest, and if anything, OS X 10.10 moves the Mac further from converging with iPad, with things like Handoff and AirDrop creating a seamless sharing experience that adapts to their respective environments.

We may never see a Multi-Touch Mac. What seemed inevitable back in 2010 is no closer to fruition than it was then — OS X and iOS may share certain design cues and UX elements, but they're as far apart as the've always been. Nothing about the Yosemite redesign suggests touch is being considered in the slightest, and if anything, OS X 10.10 moves the Mac further from converging with iPad, with things like Handoff and AirDrop creating a seamless sharing experience that adapts to their respective environments.

But that's not to say the iPad hasn't had a tremendous influence on the Mac. Apple's line of tablets may have brought an extraordinary level of simplicity and elegance to common computing tasks, but it also introduced a perfect form factor: light, ultra portable, self-contained and long-lasting. It's something Apple has been striving for with its laptops for years, and with the new MacBook it's nearly there.

Imitation game

You don't have to be a seasoned Apple watcher to see where Jony Ive found his inspiration for the pared-down portable. The three colors it comes in — sing it with me: space gray, gold and silver — mirror the options available on the iPad line. The case is barely a quarter-inch thick when closed. The once-glowing Apple is now forged from metal. You'll never hear a fan.

But perhaps more than the superficial similarities, Apple's new MacBook has the spirit of an iPad. It's portable in a way only iOS devices are — shockingly light, yet sturdy and rugged. The only two ports are audio and power. Build-to-order options are virtually nonexistent. And the choice between the two models is largely based on storage considerations.

Even the keyboard seems to take its cues from the tablet's virtual keys. With a thinner design that squeezes the spaces between letters and brings them flush against the case, it shifts our expectations of how we type on a notebook. The new butterfly mechanism changes the feel and feedback we get while typing and creates a uniformity under our fingers that those of us who do a lot of iPad typing will immediately recognize.

The iPad's influence can be seen in the trackpad, too. It takes up more of the palm rest to let your hands sit in a more natural position, and like the keyboard, the underlying mechanism has been redesigned to provide a more homogenous experience that requires no actual clicking. Even with Force Touch — a feature that's all but certain to land on the iPad with this year's refresh — the tapping is intuitive, and the trackpad is able to recognize your touches without needing much more pressure than you would use to long-tap an object on a touchscreen.

 

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