Why Apple needs a touch-screen device that combines iPads and Macs

For those who celebrate Christmas, It’s always a little sad to see the aftermath of the holidays in January: the bare space where the tree once stood, a wine rack looking emptier — and, in my case anyway, fingerprints all over the TV.

Those mementos would be courtesy of our young nephews. It’s not their fault, though. So accustomed are they to the idea that every screen is meant for touching, the idea that this large, inviting one is immune to it just never seems to linger — and I have a TV covered in fingerprints as proof.

Strange as it may sound, however, this little domestic dilemma is the problem facing Mac maker Apple — and, ironically, it’s one that it created for itself.

An entire generation who have known nothing but reactive touch screens for their whole lives is now coming of age, and they consider screens that aren’t touch as not just an aberration, but backwards.

Apple, however, has not just resisted touch screens on Macs for years but has loudly and publicly derided them. While it has not yet harmed MacBook sales — to the contrary, they are growing healthily — the basic assumption that touch screens are the default is inevitably going to become an issue long-term.

Apple’s stance, however, appears set to change. Reliable Bloomberg scribe Mark Gurman reported this week that Apple is now considering touch screens on Macs. By 2025, the MacBooks that populate coffee shops and university campuses might also be blessed with glass covered in smudges.

If it comes to pass, however, it is only a half-step. A touch screen Mac is undoubtedly a nice and necessary idea. More than anything, touch on a laptop is less a feature than a backup, a kind of concession to the habit and muscle memory we now all have about touching screens.

What is actually far more useful and forward-thinking would be a device from Apple that both combined the iPad and Mac, and “became” either depending on how and when one uses it.

At least as an idea, it is simple enough. Picture carrying around an iPad that worked just like an iPad most of time: full-screen apps, touch activated, and mostly used for content consumption.

But connect it to a larger screen, keyboard and mouse, and that device…