Seven years ago I wrote this over at Macworld:

The use of iOS devices has prompted us to expect screens to be responsive… While other vendors shipped touchscreen computers first, Apple is the company that could ship them right. … [Its] approach, assuming this particular rumor actually materializes, will have to reinvent user interaction on the desktop.

I, of course, had no idea how Apple might do that, but I knew from using Windows-based touchscreen devices that you can’t just slap a touch screen on a mouse-and-pointer-driven interface and call it good. With Windows 8, Microsoft had bolted a touch-based interface over top of the traditional one. Windows 10 improved on that, but its improvements were mostly focused on making the desktop experience better, fixing the things they messed up in Windows 8, not so much improving the touch experience.

The basic problem is that fingers are less precise than pointers. You can compensate for this by making all your touch targets huge, but that really screws up your interface for desktop use; large, clunky interface elements aren’t a solution. You could have the device work in two different modes, but mode switching is just another band aid and is only designed for tablets that dock to keyboards, not laptops.

What’s an operating system designer to do?

When you look at how Apple implemented cursor support in iPadOS, you get an idea: make it smarter. Over at Six Colors, Jason Snell sums up the WWDC session on Design for the iPadOS Pointer.

…the iPadOS designers focused on a pointer with “adaptive precision,” that could switch contexts (and shapes) to become more precise when necessary.

He concludes:

After watching the session, I have to be honest: I fully expect Apple to bring an adapted version of the iPad’s approach to pointers to macOS in a future release.

He’s not specifically suggesting there will be touch-input Macs coming, but making the operating system smarter — giving it the ability to make some assumptions about imprecise inputs and ask you “Is this what you wanted?” — is the kind of change I can now 100 percent say I was thinking of seven years ago when I had no idea what would happen. That was it. Totally.

I don’t know if touch-input is coming to the Mac (beyond the Touch Bar). But all the pieces needed for it are certainly coming together. So why not?