In major refresh, Apple adds keyboard touch functions to Mac

CALIFORNIA — Apple’s high-end Mac laptops are getting a touch control strip above the keyboard, part of a long-awaited update aimed at reviving interest in a product often overshadowed by newer gadgets like the iPad and iPhone.

TOUCH. A guest checks the Touch Bar on a MacBook computer shown in a demo room. (AP PHOTO)
TOUCH. A guest checks the Touch Bar on a MacBook computer shown in a demo room. (AP PHOTO)

The new Touch Bar, which is both a narrow display and a control panel, replaces the old physical function keys on a traditional laptop. It will offer a variety of controls that change according to the app or website that’s open.

It also has functions that will be familiar to many iPhone users — showing word suggestions as you type, for example, or letting you scroll through a library of emojis.

New features, higher price

The company unveiled the laptops at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, where executives showed how the Touch Bar works with a variety of apps and software — providing playback and editing controls for videos or music, for example, and search functions for Apple’s maps and photos apps.

Apple is also opening the Touch Bar to work with outside software, including Adobe’s Photoshop editing program and Microsoft’s Word, PowerPoint and Skype.

Along with faster processors and brighter screens, two of Apple’s new laptops will also get a fingerprint sensor, similar to the one on iPhones. The sensor can unlock the device, authorize software installations or recognize a different user and quickly switch to that person’s settings. It works with Apple Pay, so users can authorize an electronic payment for online purchases.

At least for now, the new Touch Bar and Touch ID features will be available only on higher-end models — a 13-inch MacBook Pro that starts at about $1,800 and a 15-inch MacBook Pro at about $2,400. Both ship in a few weeks. Apple is also selling a 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar or Touch ID, but with other improvements, for about $1,500.

DEMO. An experienced design manager at Adobe Photoshop gives a demonstration of using Touch Bar during an announcement of new Apple products. (AP PHOTO)
DEMO. An experienced design manager at Adobe Photoshop gives a demonstration of using Touch Bar during an announcement of new Apple products. (AP PHOTO)

Baby steps in TV

Cook also used the event to promote a newer endeavor, Apple TV, and a new unified menu feature that shows recommendations and new episodes of recently watched shows, so viewers don’t have to search through different apps to find them.

Apple’s app, though, is short of a full-fledged streaming-TV service, which reports say Apple has been pursuing. Rather, it brings together TV shows and movies viewers already get through individual subscriptions.

The TV app, coming in December, will be synced with iPhones and iPads, so viewers can catch the next episode regardless of device. Apple said its Siri voice assistant will also direct viewers to live events, such as streaming sports.

Apple said Apple TV already has 8,000 apps, including more than 2,000 games. The addictive building game “Minecraft” will come later this year. (AP)

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