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Why Apple should release a touch-screen Mac

Apple should release a touch-screen Mac as soon as possible. But is it the right move for the company?

Apple is one of the major leaders in the multitouch space and yet, the company's desire to bring a full-fledged touch-screen device to store shelves has stopped with the iPhone. In fact, the most it has done in bringing multitouch to its computers is offering the functionality in the track pad on its MacBook Air.

But simply offering multitouch on a trackpad isn't enough to make consumers want to flock to Apple products instead of HP or Dell machines. Instead, Apple needs to embrace the fact that many people prefer touch-screen technology and create a Mac that offers the same basic functionality found in the iPhone.

Innovation has been a key to Apple's success over the past decade and without it, the company would be nothing more than another computer vendor. But by releasing a Mac that eclipses the functionality of the tablet PC and fully harnesses the power of multitouch in a way that no one has seen before, Apple can create the computing world's first iPhone-like success.

And in the process, Apple could single-handedly propel the computing market forward into a new era where vanilla products are the exception and establish itself as the de facto leader in innovation.

The computing market may be an entirely different space than the cell phone market, where a touch screen is more desired, but we can't forget that it's still being dictated by the common desire of all consumers to use the single product that does what no other device can. And with the world's first touch screen, multitouch Mac in place, Apple can recreate the same iPhone scenario in the computing market and in the process, make competing vendors and Microsoft look outdated.

But Microsoft isn't so naive. The company has already started developing touchscreen technology of its own in the Surface, and has its own plans about what the future of touchscreens could hold. And although it's a much different technology than what I'm suggesting Apple provide, it highlights one important fact: when a company is willing to put its money behind ingenuity, game-changing products result.

Apple is well on its way to developing a full-fledged touch-screen Mac. The company's MacBook Air already sports multitouch technology on its trackpad and its iPhone is a prime example of its ability to create a product in that vein that people actually want.

So what would it look like? Ideally, the computer could be controlled with the touch screen and if you prefer, you can type on it as well. For those who aren't so keen on typing on a virtual keyboard, Apple's touch-screen Mac should sport a physical keyboard that can be slid out. In terms of aesthetics, I'll leave that up to Apple--I think it has proven to be quite capable in designing handsome products.

Right now, Apple has well over $18 billion just sitting in its coffers waiting to be used. And although a touch screen Mac would undoubtedly cost the company quite a bit and possibly cut down on margins, it's a risk worth taking. Sure, the price may be higher, but if the iPhone is any indication of buyer preference, it's quite apparent that consumers are willing to pay substantially more for a product that's both unique and more capable than any product in the market.

Why Apple and not Dell or HP? It's simple--Apple is the only company in the market that's willing to risk failure to be the most innovative and beloved company in the space. On top of that, Apple is the only company in that market that truly has a pulse on the desires of most consumers.

Of course, developing a touch-screen Mac won't be easy for Apple. It will need to modify its OS and ensure that it can interact with an entirely different computing style. Because of that, it may take some time for Apple to get up the courage (and quality) to release such a product. That said, it should endeavor to do so as soon as possible.

Right now, Apple is slowly gaining ground on HP and Dell in hardware sales and is the third-most popular hardware manufacturer in the US. And although it has been able to catch Acer and the rest, beating Dell and HP may be difficult. But by releasing a product that was once thought impossible, Apple can solidify itself as the company that's willing to go the extra mile to provide users with the products they truly want. And in the process, I think it could gain significant market share quite quickly.

There's no telling what Apple has up its sleeve in the coming weeks and although speculation abounds, there's no way to know if a new Mac will even hit store shelves. But if Apple finally does release a new Mac, it should harness the power of touch-screen technology.

It may be expensive and it may not appeal to everyone. But that's the same thing that was said about the iPhone and I think we all know how well that went for Apple.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.