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Apple Analyst Predicts Improved Keyboard Coming To MacBook Pro And Air

One Apple partner tells CRN he has 'trepidation' about the forthcoming design based on past keyboard issues.

Apple may be planning to abandon its troubled "butterfly" keyboard design on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, following an uproar from users and several lawsuits over the issue.

A refreshed MacBook Air planned for later this year and a new MacBook Pro that’s in the works for 2020 will feature a "scissor switch" keyboard design, in an attempt by Apple to eliminate the issues tied to the controversial butterfly design, according to reports on a research note from well-known analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

[Related: Apple Pledges To Fix Or Replace Defective MacBook Pro Keyboards]

Kuo, of TF International Securities, reportedly says that the scissor switch keyboard will provide deeper key travel and improved durability through the adoption of glass fiber reinforcement.

A year ago, Apple launched a keyboard service program for problematic MacBook Pro and MacBook laptop keyboards following a string of complaints and lawsuits.

Troublesome keyboard behaviors that have been acknowledged by Apple include letters or characters repeating unexpectedly; letters or characters failing to appear; and keys that are "sticky" or "do not respond in a consistent manner," the Cupertino, Calif.-based company had said on its service program page.

Apple introduced a redesigned MacBook Pro in late 2016 featuring a "butterfly" keyboard mechanism, aimed at providing "more responsive and comfortable typing," Apple said at the time.

But unhappy users and several lawsuits have contended that the keyboards are prone to fail and expensive to fix--in part because the individual keys are not removable and the entire keyboard must be replaced.

Jerry Zigmont, owner of MacWorks, a New Haven, Conn.-based Apple consultancy, is among those who has gone back to using an earlier MacBook Pro model—largely because of the keyboard problems.

"This is obviously not a new issue. It's been out there for a number of years, ever since Apple came out with the redesign in 2016," Zigmont said.

And while Zigmont said he is encouraged to see Apple paying more attention to the MacBook Pro keyboard problems, he's far from convinced that the scissor switch keyboard is the right solution.

In particular, it appears unlikely that the new keyboard will have individually replaceable keys, since Apple is adopting a new keyboard design rather than returning to the previous design, Zigmont said.

"I have lots of trepidation," he said. "If you have to replace the whole keyboard if the new keyboard fails, I would have a lot of reservations out of the gate with this new redesign."

Additionally, Apple has released purported fixes for its MacBook Pro keyboard issues in recent years, which didn't turn out to alleviate the issues, Zigmont said.

"Talk is cheap. We've heard them say this before—'We've answered the call. We've listened to our users.' But they really haven't," he said.

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