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Apple adds touch screen keys to new MacBook Pro

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks under a graphic of the new MacBook Pro during an Apple media event in Cupertino

Apple unveiled a revamped MacBook Pro on Thursday, adding a fingerprint reader, replacing function keys with a small touch screen and slimming down the workhorse of its computer notebook line.

The first redesign in several years is a sign Apple still sees a role for the product that launched the company, even though its iPhones are now much more important in terms of sales.

“What they really need to do is get people buying Macs again, instead of upgrading old ones. They haven’t had a new, powerful MacBook Pro in a while and the MacBook Air is getting old,” said Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, ahead of the event.

The Mac line accounted for about 11 per cent of Apple sales in the just-finished fiscal year, with the number of machines sold down by 10 per cent to 18.5 million. Apple said that was in line with an overall market decline, but analysts want more.

Shares of Apple were down about half a percent in afternoon trading in New York after the event.

Customers will be able to access the new machines with Touch ID, the fingerprint reader also used on iPhones, and use the touch screen bar of keys, called the Touch Bar, to control programs and apps being used on the main screen.

The buttons, which change depending on what programs the user is running, effectively act as a second screen, showing older versions of a picture being edited, for example.

The MacBook Pro with Touch ID, Touch Bar and a 13-inch screen will start at $1,799, compared with $1,299 for the previous 13-inch product. The 15-inch notebook will start at $2,399, compared with $1,999 for the previous version. Apple also will offer a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch ID and Touch Bar for $1,499.

Other computer makers have chosen to use touch screens for the main display screen. For instance, Microsoft Corp on Wednesday unveiled its first-ever desktop and a revamped Surface Book laptop, both of which allow touch input on the main screen.

Bob O’Donnell, president of TECHnalysis Research LLC, said before the Mac announcement that the market believes focus on the iPhone means Apple has “almost given up on Macs,” which has led to losing market share to other personal computers.

“It’ll be good to have Apple keep themselves relevant” with new Macs, he said. “Though many had written the category off, it’s fascinating to see both Microsoft and Apple make big PC-related announcements this week. It clearly shows the relevance that computers still have.”

Apple also announced a new TV App that would work on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad products, in an effort to make it easier to tune into programs across devices.

The company also said that it would integrate Twitter feeds into live sports games on Apple TV, adding a social element to the product.

Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, speaks under a graphic of a new MacBook Pros during an Apple media event in Cupertino
Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, speaks under a graphic of a new MacBook Pros during an Apple media event in Cupertino


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