The new iMac just squandered its chance to be the ultimate creator’s machine

Why does Apple hate touchscreens on desktops? There’s a really strong case for a touchscreen M1 iMac now that it’s basically a giant iPad Pro.

With a touchscreen, Apple's M1 iMac could have wrecked Microsoft's Surface Studio 2

So this new M1 iMac. There’s a 99 percent chance I’m going to buy it because it looks Skittles-licious and that M1 chip screams. I still lose my mind every time I throw a 4K video clip into Handbrake on my M1 MacBook Air and it’s done converting the clip before I’ve even exhaled.

Hey Mac team, don’t forget me. I mean, I’ll buy one to review like I did the M1 MacBook Air, but I’d love to test drive the M1 iMac even if it doesn’t have an SD card slot or come in Space Gray (bruh!). I’m not gonna pretend I’m not upset, but I’m sure Anker or Satechi will be more than happy to sell me a multi-port dongle adapter or whatever and I’ll buy it because I’ll need it.

Back to the M1 iMac. I keep looking at its slim aluminum profile and wishing it was more — a real Surface Studio killer.

See, I’ve been obsessed with Microsoft’s all-in-one Surface Studio 2 desktop for years. I am not a professional illustrator, but man if I had a Surface Studio 2, I would pick up a pencil and become a mangaka (or fail trying). The problem with the Studio 2 is that it’s crazy expensive — starting at $3,500, which is money I can’t justify spending on a desktop computer that isn’t upgradeable. Even a first-gen Surface Studio goes for over $2,000 used on eBay and that machine had really awful performance.

The Surface Studio 2 looks as futuristic today as it did in 2018.Raymond Wong / Input

When I reviewed the Studio 2 a few years ago, I not only loved its ginormous 28-inch PixelSense display for drawing and writing notes, but being able to tilt and angle that screen like a drafting table opened up a whole new way of interfacing with digital content. Instead of being chained to a mouse and keyboard, I was pushing windows, documents, and videos around with all 10 of my fingers. I was manipulating content with the naturalness of an iPad, only without the constraints of a smaller display. (You’ll immediately understand if you’ve ever tried to trim a video clip on an iPad only to fail at cutting precisely without the help of an Apple Pencil.) I was even getting used to the super underrated Surface Dial, which I actually later bought to use with my Windows PC.

The Surface Studio 2 is a computer from the future — touchscreen and desktop harmoniously mixed together like no other. It’s a giant iPad...that runs Windows 10. The Studio 2 is the desktop that I would own and use if only it didn’t cost a fortune and Microsoft cared enough to update it. But alas, Microsoft’s neglected it for years and its price tag (and probably low volume sales) makes it such a niche product, there’s no incentive to refresh it.

With the M1 chip now shared in the new 24-inch iMac and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, all I see is a giant tablet and smaller tablet. Look at this!

M1 iMac (left) vs. iPad Pro (right). Both are powered by Apple’s M1 chip.Apple

It would have made perfect sense to give the iMac a touchscreen now that the silicon core is identical. Look at this 11.5mm thick display on the 10-pound iMac — tell me that’s not an iPad, only bigger. It totally is.

Tell me that’s not an iPad, only bigger. It totally is.

The rationale for a touchscreen M1 iMac makes even more sense now that Apple decided it wants the iPad Pro to be more laptop / Mac-like. Every once in a while, when I switch from my iPad Pro to a MacBook or my desktop, I find myself accidentally tapping at their screens because it’s natural to want to tap a play button on a YouTube video to pinch-and-zoom to enlarge a photo or website or swipe to scroll on a page.

Excuse my typo. But come on, it’s like a giant iPad!

And the flat-edge sides of the new iMac? Could have easily put some magnets in there to clip on an Apple Pencil. If Apple had announced the M1 iMac with a touchscreen, digital artists everywhere would flock to it the same way they did when the iPad added Apple Pencil in 2015. My brain hurts just imagining how an Apple Pencil paired with iMac could be a creator’s dream machine for Photoshop, Illustrator, or Procreate.

Adding multi-touch and Apple Pencil also could help bring iMac and iPad closer. It’d be an easy sell: iMac at home and iPad Pro when you’re out and about. You’d get the same performance and the only differences would be display size and slightly less system OS versatility from iPadOS. App compatibility wouldn’t be as problematic and — this is important — this would give real incentive for developers to port their iPad and iOS apps to macOS Big Sur. A touchscreen could have been the dangling carrot developers need.

Oh, and price? Even if Apple, say, bumped up the price of a touchscreen iMac to $1,999 it would still be way less than a Surface Studio 2. Professional creatives and wannabe artists like myself would eat $1 ramen packs just to save and buy it.

And let me just throw in one more whacky idea: you’d be able to easily transport the M1 iMac around because of its 10-pound weight. Something you can’t easily do with a 27-inch iMac. Not without looking like a total goofball like this dude:

I swear I’ve seen people in NYC wear their iMacs around like a bag. I don't know why, but this is impractical when the computer weighs 20 pounds.Amazon

Just imagine this touchscreen iMac that could have been. Because I’ve been doing that since yesterday and I’m getting more depressed that Apple didn’t make this very logical product that we all want. Could it be possible that Apple is saving a Space Gray model iMac with a more powerful Apple Silicon chip, an SD card slot (I will never let this go!), and a touchscreen for an “iMac Pro” to be released later? It’s very possible. Will it only fragment whatever Mac / iOS synergy Apple has been trying to pull together unsuccessfully for the last few years? Sure will.

So Apple, if you’re reading this... why do you hate touchscreens on Macs? Touchscreens are awesome on iPad and the Magic Keyboard is proof that keyboard/mouse input can coexist with touch. Gorilla arm is not a valid excuse anymore. And besides, Jony Ive is gone. It’s okay to move on.

"Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes,” Steve Jobs once said. “It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations."

Please, let’s move on and add that touchscreen into the iMac. You’ve got billions of dollars for R&D and over a decade of experience making best-in-class touchscreens in various small sizes. Figure out how to make a hinge or articulating arm that can angle the display. It’s possible. Apple, you already did it in 2002 with the iMac G4. Now add the touchscreen. Colorful iMacs are cute, but we need machines that enable creatives to make things in new ways. Let us touch, draw, and write on our content on iMac like we can on iPad. It’s the future.

iMac G4 with articulating screen.Apple