This is a great case study in explaining new technology to new users.
Apple’s glass trackpad makes a lot of sense to people that have been using trackpads for years. Whenever I hand someone a MacBook with one… they take a look at it and are perplexed… sometimes scared.
But then I tell them to just “click the trackpad” and they instantly get it. So, here’s the problem: what happens if you’ve never “clicked the trackpad”. What if you’re a new user to computers completely? Yes, new people are coming into the world every day, and I would hate to be someone young encountering Apple’s glass trackpad.
Here’s why. When I was five years old, I was playing around with Macintosh Basics. This was a Macromedia Shockwave app (yes, I’m dating myself) that Apple included with later-model Macintosh II models. Basically, it taught you how to use a computer for the first time… right down to mouse basics. I still want to feed the goldfish again (at the time, clicking a fish food icon and having it give an animation of feeding a fish on the screen was really exciting).
The glass trackpad though works as if you’ve been using a non-glass trackpad for years. The gestures act as if there’s an invisible line across the lower third of the trackpad’s surface.
Don’t believe me? Try it. Take two fingers and use them in a scrolling motion on the top of the surface. Then, take a third finger and click the top of the trackpad. Notice, right-click commands fail unless you apply the third finger on the lower third of the trackpad… where the button used to be.
I know, you’re probably thinking… who cares. Well, Apple prides itself in being “human”. They’re the company that made multi-touch after all. I think this is an indication that Apple wants to move away from the trackpad altogether.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple wants to move the Mac OS X experience in the next version, to a multi-touch gesture oriented approach. I would be more surprised if the next version of Mac OS X didn’t make the mouse, trackpad, and keyboard a completely optional experience.