With the sole exception of the touchscreen key strip that replaces the function keys, there’s pretty much nothing that interesting about the new Macbook Pro machines from Apple. That is not to say they are not nice machines, but they are a bit under-specified for a “pro” laptop tag, although I suspect that quite a few people complaining about the lack of a dedicated GPU in the 13″ model fail to realise that most serious professionals do most of their heavy number crunching in the cloud and not on a light-weight laptop.
And frankly any laptop is light-weight compared to a rack-based server with a case full of Teslas.
A laptop is essentially a creative tool for accessing “the cloud” for anything that requires a real computer, and a 13″ Macbook Pro is fine for that (although the trendy tax is a touch high).
Now onto the function key replacement: As a devotee of the keyboard, I’m somewhat reluctant to cheer the replacement of real keys with a touch screen, but it could be quite a neat feature. In the old days when we used function keys much more widely than we do now, on-screen labels for what the function keys did were not uncommon … look at the bottom of the following screenshot :-
And the ill-fated Apricot Computers had a competitor to the IBM PC which came with a keyboard that had six “soft keys” with LCD panels.
So Apple has not done anything new here, but when did they? Their core skill is taking technical innovations and making them user-friendly; I don’t have a problem with that.
This keyboard could be useful in many ways – in addition to resurrecting the old “function key labels” in a more usable way, there is also the possibility of using them to insert symbols that we should be using, but rarely do so because they are not to be found on our normal keyboards. Depending on your proffesion (or inclination), we have different symbols we could or should be using – perhaps the copyright symbol ©, the interrobang ‽, or more. Of course how useful it becomes will be down to the relevant software developers.