If a TB concept is adopted by Apple for a laptop, they could simply locate the Touchbar above it. It may not even use the same ergonomic design. Or it may simply take the basic concept of layers, reducing the number of keys and resulting stretch. Having a touchbar just two rows above the home position would still be better than now.
In fact, while I'm very impressed with the hardware to make a very small, but great feeling keyboard, it may be that in the long run the real advance WT has made is in the layered approach. On my Apple keyboard, I have 6 rows counting the space bar. This has 4 so having another on some versions, whether touch bar or other, still leaves you way ahead.
But it is even better than that. The space it takes for six rows on a TB only takes up the vertical space of of 4.5 rows on the Apple keyboard! A four row textblade barely goes over 3 on it!
I can see all kinds of new keyboards using this approach. for example, 4 rows with the top row being certain special things you may always want handy, but don't use most of the time. This could give you single keys for some actions (cut, copy, paste, media play, pause, FF, RW, Next track, previous track, volume up, down, mute). Whatever the user wanted (I like being able to do things with one finger). That list would fill the 12 additional keys. And you could still program layers for it as well - so lots of two key options you could hit with the same hand. And then a touch bar above that! Yet you'd still be more compact than regular keyboards.
Of course, some will prefer it as is now and that's fine. I'm just looking at it the same way as all the many variations of regular keyboards we have today.
BTW, with your emulation, you can do the layers, but you still have the greater stretch, even if you limit yourself to 3 main rows. How does that work for you? I would suspect that the reduced space matters a lot with using layers.
I agree that there are advantages to the color, sliders, etc. But I'm not saying the TB will match up in every detail - though I see no reason why they couldn't build in the TB on a laptop (thus no Bluetooth limit) or, for that matter, they could create an external version that plugs in directly.
As I said above, it isn't the exact physical design that I'm thinking about. That's great for some things, not as much for others. I'm just thinking about the basic approach with less space needed and all the advantages of layers.