Apple macOS Big Sur embraces (icon) social distancing

Is a touch-based MacBook coming soon?

Apple had a whale of a virtual WWDC this year. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it was actually (far) better than hosting the event in front of a real audience of developers and partners, as it has done since the conference’s inception back in 1987. Refreshing that we didn’t need to sit through vapid applause every five minutes, cringe to the awkward laughter, and otherwise endure the delays that are caused by studio audiences in getting through otherwise informative presentations. Instead, the virtual COVID-19 edition of WWDC was fast paced and extremely well produced.

Of course there were lots of product and service announcements throughout. Fall 2020 is looking to be one of the biggest seasons yet for refreshed Apple hardware and software.

But out of all the glitz and snazzy new stuff, there was something I noticed in Apple’s Big Sur software update. See the images below:

macOS Big Sur - Control Center - Apple MacBook icons touch-based design

Notice, in particular, the top right. This is a new Mac version of what the Control Center will look like in Big Sur. Gone are the small fonts and staid lists of options for controlling things like screen brightness and volume and WiFi and Bluetooth. In its place is a design that very much looks iPhone-ish. I really like the look. I wonder though, about that extra space. Note that there’s lots of breathing room between the control panels. And, in addition, the sliders for instance, are generously proportioned. More so perhaps than what would traditionally be needed for a mouse or trackpad pointer.

That got me to wondering…

Is Apple preparing us for a new generation of MacBook — beyond that is the already monumental news of moving ARM and Apple Silicon?

Could a touch-based MacBook be on the horizon?

I think yes.

Inevitable. Our phones are touch-based. Our tablets are touch-based. Microsoft Surface devices and other Windows-based laptops are touch-based. So why not a Mac? Moving to ARM is likely part of that reason; that the code base will be shared with Apple iPads and iPhones making interoperability easier. We’re slowly seeing iPhone apps make their way to macOS. Eventually why not have everything share the same platform? Processors in the iPad can already do heavy lifting and run complex video editing and audio production apps so it’s not much of a leap to predict that the lines between laptops and tablets will blur.

Big Sur is looking to be a big step in that touch-based direction. By adapting iPhone style interface elements the iconic Mac operating system is getting itself ready for our fingers.