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Summary:

A touch screen on a notebook is something that you either think is the cat’s meow or that it’s something that just drives up the cost of the device.  Kevin and I have used many, many touch-enabled devices including the iPhone but don’t find much benefit […]

Do_not_touchA touch screen on a notebook is something that you either think is the cat’s meow or that it’s something that just drives up the cost of the device.  Kevin and I have used many, many touch-enabled devices including the iPhone but don’t find much benefit from putting touch on a notebook.  We’ve stated that touch technology doesn’t offer much benefit to larger screens as there is no task inherently better when performed by touch as opposed to traditional mouse and keyboard.

That’s not always a popular view and it gets even cloudier when you throw multi-touch into the equation.  Apple showed us how cool it can be to put multi-touch on a handheld device, especially when the software is tweaked to make full use of the technology.  Since the iPhone debuted there has been excitement to get multi-touch on notebook computers.  What we haven’t seen is a use that would make that technology a better way to interact with a notebook possessing a screen larger than handhelds.

Wired has published an article that looks at multi-touch technology and how laptop makers are not feeling the love to put it on their products.  A number of good reasons are given including what we’ve said before, until a specific need is served by having multi-touch capability on a notebook then it’s just so much buzz.

Multitouch, which lets users control applications through gestureson a screen, may not be the best interface for laptops because of thesize and placement of the screen. In addition, there’s littleintegration between touchscreens and most software.

"You don’t see a lot of touchscreen notebooks because it is notintuitive to reach up and start touching the screen when there is agood keypad," says Paul Moore, senior director product management atFujitsu, one of the world’s biggest laptop makers.

  1. Chicken or egg. Hardware makers aren’t interested in multi-touch because there’s no software support. Software vendors aren’t spending money on multi-touch input because there’s minimal hardware support. This is why Microsoft had to roll out their own multi-touch machine. This is why N-Trig is pushing their own SDK. It’s also why Apple, which makes both software and hardware, is the only one that has capitalized on multi-touch. Until the different parties come together on this issue, Apple will continue to own multi-touch input.

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  2. I realize this article focuses on multi-touch, but the quote from Fujitsu was somewhat surprising:

    >> “You don’t see a lot of touchscreen notebooks because it is not intuitive to reach up and start touching the screen when there is a good keypad…” < <

    For me, there is nothing more intuitive than touching the screen instead of using a touchpad or pointer stick. This is an incredibly natural form of interaction with a computer.

    However, there are some practical limitations. My passive digitizer isn’t particularly accurate, and needs to be recalibrated every couple of days. Laptop hinges need to be firm enough to prevent the display from rotating back when touching the screen. Third, touchscreens are more expensive. And, finally, a touchscreen is a non-traditional interface and might be resisted by users purely because it requires a change in habits. These are all valid reasons for using touchpads or pointer sticks instead. But stating that touchscreens are not intuitive seems a little odd to me, especially from a company that sells so many different tablet PCs.

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  3. Whether the touchscreen is more or less intuitive depends on the user’s experience.

    I was just in the Apple Store last night when I saw a young lady walk up to an iMac and touched the screen trying to schedule an appointment. Only took her one touch to realize it isn’t touchscreen, but I imagined she saw the big icons and thought “must be like iPhone/iPod touch.”

    Multi-touch works great for iPhone/iPod touch because it’s the fastest input method versus the traditional inputs for handhelds. On Windows Mobile and BB, you have to jump through menus to perform tasks or use directional buttons (or trackball) to scroll. On laptops, keyboard + mouse + keyboard shortcuts is more efficient than keyboard + mouse + multi-touch. But this will vary greatly depending on tasks and software.

    just my 2 cents
    dts

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  4. Soon, multi-touch will be standard on touchpads. I’m loving the feature on the Eee PC 1000H.
    I’m guessing touchscreens will not likely be found on 7″ screens or higher anymore (Unless the screen is a table :D). The added cost isn’t worth the extra utility.

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