Faced with sluggish Chromebook sales and challenged by surprisingly innovative Windows machines, Google will reportedly release a touchscreen laptop later this year. A Wall Street Journal scoop says that the search giant will double down on its commitment to manufacturing hardware with a touchscreen laptop powered by the Chrome operating system. And based on the rest of Google's hardware lineup — both the Chromebook and the Nexus 7 tablet start at $199 — it'll probably be frighteningly affordable. It will also be one thing that Google has that Apple does not.
Touchscreen laptops are not a new invention. They've been on the market for a while now, after Lenovo unveiled the world's first "flip-and-fold design" laptop at CES 2012. The idea is somewhat controversial, but in the words of Sean Hollister at The Verge, "Surprisingly, touchscreen laptops don't suck." That "surprisingly" is in there pretty specifically because Apple's been resisting the touchscreen laptop and even touchscreen computer idea for years. During a keynote back in 2010, Steve Jobs described the "gorilla arm" problem. "Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical," said the Apple visionary. "It gives great demo, but after a short period of time you start to fatigue, and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off." Earlier this year, Tim Cook echoed his predecessor's point-of-view on an earnings call when asked about the hybrid Windows 8 devices, the so-called touchscreen laptops. "You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator," he replied, "but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user."
The Apple royalty's pushback hasn't stopped the fanboys from begging for a MacBook Touch, though. French architect Olivier Terrisse even made a concept video showing what appears to be a MacBook Air until it flips around and turns into an iPad. The latest versions of Apple's OSX seem super touch friendly, too — they look a lot like iOS which powers the iPad! Chatter over a touchscreen Apple computer continued this year ahead of the iMac redesign. Again, concepts were made, but Apple still failed to deliver.
But hey, no big deal. There's a chance that Apple will pull an anti-pumpfake and unleash the MacBook Touch on the world this fall, beating Google to the punch. Or maybe the Cupertino kids are just letting Lenovo and Google and everyone else basically conduct market testing for them, and if the touchscreen laptop is a thing that people like, Apple will just make a better one. The company is pretty good at this trick.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.