Rob Bushway of GottaBeMobile recorded a video demonstration conducted by Hilton Locke of Microsoft that showed off the touch enhancements that Vista will provide for touch screen computers. The touch enhancements have been a big interest item for me since I first heard Microsoft was planning them for Vista, after all I have been using touch screen devices for as long as anyone. The enhancements include the Touch Pointer which mimics a mouse on-screen allowing for hover mode, something that touch screen Tablets running Windows XP lack. I watched Rob’s video with great interest and took a few days to ponder what I had seen and today I watched it again, wondering if perhaps I missed something.
In the video Hilton shows how the Touch Pointer works with fingertip control. There is a depiction of a 2-button mouse on the screen with a cursor that sits off to the side of the mouse image, that looks like this:
It looks pretty cool as Hilton demonstrates it and only appears when you use your finger and not a stylus, which is pretty intelligent. I have to admit that I have never used this personally so my confusion may be one of ignorance but to me it looks like a step backward from the UMPCs running Windows XP today. For me, there is nothing easier than tapping the screen with my finger and having the cursor appear exactly where I tap. I can close windows, drag things around, and even affect a right-click by holding the item for a bit as I have configured the Tablet settings to do so. In the video, it seems very confusing to me that the cursor is off to the side or corner of the mouse, and depending on how you are moving your finger the cursor changes to a different side of the mouse. Watching the video you can see the actual cursor jump from the upper left corner of the mouse to the right corner, down to the bottom left corner, you get the picture. This seems like a total loss of precision over my current method of simply tapping on whatever I want to do. The moving cursor of the Touch Pointer is very disconcerting to me and even Hilton had trouble doing some of the things he wanted to do because the cursor kept jumping around. It is also apparent that my days of simply tapping a button with my finger and having an action performed may be numbered because the Touch Point requires you to move the cursor over the button and then tap the left mouse button on the image, which is not under the cursor. It’s like an extra step is required over what we have now.
I realize that I may not have the whole picture from this short video and I would love for anyone who has used this to chime in here to set me straight. I know that this "enhancement" is largely designed to provide a hover capability that active digitizers have but I can get the same hover benefits from my UMPC now by dragging my finger over the object where I want to affect a hover action and releasing it. The palm rejection technology that Hilton demonstrated as part of the touch enhancements is definitely very cool and is worth the price of admission to upgrade to Vista but we already are seeing some devices running Windows XP that incorporate it such as the Fujitsu P1610 and the Flybook that Kevin demonstrated in his great video review. Even so, I fail to see the benefit of this new Touch Pointer and the loss of simple control that I perceive it brings. So please set me straight if you can because right now I feel I am missing something.