With rumours abounding that Apple's mystery new product will be a MacBook Touch, What Laptop Editor Michael Browne has admitted he is not sure if touchscreen technology will be much more than a gimmick.

Apple supremo Steve Jobs and Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer both pointed to the development of a mystery device which is cutting into Apple's margin, and the prospect of a MacBook laptop which utilises touchscreen technology like the popular iPhone does is a strong one.

"We are working to develop new products that contains technologies that our competition will not be able to match," Oppenheimer stated this week.

A tablet by any other name?

But What Laptop editor Browne, talking exclusively to TechRadar, points out that a MacBook Touch would not be wildly different from the tablet PCs that have failed to set the world alight.

"The technology and the idea of touchscreen is nothing new, Microsoft's Tablet PC and more recently its UMPC software have been struggling for years," said Browne.

"Both have found themselves sidelined by the mainstream, which initially makes this seem more of the same.

"Apple-Geeks will see it as the latest must-have but if it's to succeed it'll all come down to the apps they bundle with it.

"There has to be a genuine reason to start poking at your MacBook screen, otherwise it's just a gimmick."

Viewpoint

Of course, Apple has taken sputtering projects and given them a fresh spin in the past – most obviously with the iPod, which revolutionised the mp3 player market.

But even Bill Gates, who has long been a champion of tablet PCs,has not managed to convince the public that the technology is ready yet, and although hybrid tablet/traditional laptops have sold fairly well, it would take something special from Apple to turn the fortunes of the touchscreen laptop around.

The iPhone has already been a standout success for Apple, and its multi-touch technology might well translate to the notebook computer, but fears over the whether this could merely be a gimmick are likely to be widespread.