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Apple SVP Phil Schiller Talks New Magic Keyboard Design Process in New Interview

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Apple’s newly unveiled 16-inch MacBook Pro welcomes the return of the scissor switch Magic Keyboard, ditching the controversial butterfly keyboard.

The new design features “a refined scissor mechanism that delivers 1mm of key travel and a stable key feel, as well as an Apple-designed rubber dome that stores more potential energy for a responsive key press.”

In a new interview with CNET, Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of marketing, talked about the redesign process of the new scissor switch keyboard and the future of the polarizing butterfly switch keyboard.

Schiller talked about how the Cupertino company had to take the design of the Magic Keyboard — a keyboard designed for desktop computers including the upcoming Mac Pro — and adapt and evolve it for a laptop implementation:

People sometimes underestimate how much work goes into a keyboard, and that’s why most keyboards in the industry don’t change for 10 or 20 years. We decided that while we were advancing the butterfly keyboard, we would also — specifically for our pro customer — go back and really talk to many pro customers about what they most want in a keyboard and did a bunch of research. The team took the time to do the work to investigate, research, explore and reinvent.

The exec also noted that a “lot of people are much happier” with the butterfly keyboard after its various revisions over the years, but many customers wanted something that felt like the Magic Keyboard, but for a laptop:

But a few years back, we decided that while we were advancing the butterfly keyboard, we would also — specifically for our pro customer — go back and really talk to many pro customers about what they most want in a keyboard and did a bunch of research.

That’s been a really impressive project, the way the engineering team has gotten into the physiology of typing and the psychology of typing — what people love. As we started to investigate specifically what pro users most wanted, a lot of times they would say, “I want something like this Magic Keyboard, I love that keyboard.” And so the team has been working on this idea of taking that core technology and adapting it to the notebook.

There were a number of hurdles that had to be overcome in the adaptation of the Magic Keyboard, including issues that had to do with backlighting and ergonomics:

To make this new scissor mechanism work appropriately in a notebook, we had to adapt it to the angle, which is different in a notebook than in a slanted desktop design for ergonomics. And it had to work in a design that had a backlight, which the notebook has that desktops do not.




Schiller also addressed the elephant in the room: the overwhelming negative press that Apple received on the butterfly keyboard design as well as how the Cupertino company has learned about keyboards:

There’s always something to learn to make a product better, no matter what the feedback, and so what can we do to make it better? Can we make it better along the lines of what we already have, or do we need to go in another direction — and for who? The team took the time to do the work to investigate research, explore and reinvent. The team has learned a lot over the last few years in this area.

Schiller wouldn’t reveal whether Apple would consider introducing this keyboard to the lower end MacBooks, though. “We are continuing both keyboard designs,” he said.

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