by Rob Poulter

This year I changed my day job from working in a school where I took my beloved 13" MacBook Air in with me every day, to a school where we were provided with Microsoft Surface Pro 3s. Initially, I wasn't too happy about this state of affairs since I've put together some great workflows in OS X that I still haven't managed to replicate to my satisfaction in Windows, but this has mostly been alleviated by the fact that the Surface Pro 3 is a really nice machine when you get used to using the touch screen for all the important things and only use the still quite terrible trackpad for all the edge cases where the Windows UI still isn't designed to be used well with fat fingers (or even the pen). 

One of the things that Apple has consistently done better than anyone else is the trackpad. It's big, it's been multitouch for ages, the sensitivity is great, and they recognize that you just don't have to have buttons taking up space if you do multitouch or regions well. On my Air, by choice I never used a mouse; it just didn't feel as good as using the trackpad.  So if there's one thing about the hardware of the Surface that I really dislike, it's the tiny little trackpad on the type cover. It does decent multitouch but the size and responsiveness just isn't up to scratch.

Enter the new MacBook. Ignore all the stuff about it going retina (which I was holding out for, but probably won't get because of...) and the single USB-C port, and look at the trackpad. Sure Apple being Apple, they made up a marketing term for haptic feedback, but reading an article on how the new button-less trackpad (the older ones were a giant button, remember) it sounds like they're in the edge of something awesome: the combination of being able to detect how hard you're pressing on something that doesn't move and being able to provide non-uniform feedback on what you're doing by feel (by contrast, haptic feedback as I've felt in current devices is along the lines of: take action, whole device shakes, and that's the only type of feedback you get, as opposed to localized feedback or degrees of intensity).

If Apple (or anyone else) can get something like this happening on a touch display, it'd solve a lot of the ugly problems of doing precise manipulations with the finger, since you'd have to rely less on being able to see what you're doing. This smells like the future. 

The article which got this going in my head was: