A touchscreen by itself does not a better device make

TouchscreenI spent a wee bit of time using the WiBrain UMPC today, mostly to set it up for daily use. My eyes are slowly getting used to the 4.8-inch SVGA display and I can navigate quite quickly using the trackpad and mouse buttons. As I used the touchscreen, I noticed that my palm was brushing up against the trackpad since I’m right-handed and the pad is at the bottom right front face of the device. Using some settings in the Synaptics software, I’ve minimized the ill-effect somewhat, but it’s still an annoyance, so I stopped using the touchscreen for a while. Smoother sailing.The lack of using the touchscreen combined with some other upcoming touchscreen devices and jkk’s awesome Eee PC touchscreen hack got me thinking about the effective use of a touchscreen on a mobile device. I’m starting to scratch my head now in wonder. Not about touchscreens; in principle, I think they’re very useful. After all my Samsung Q1P is used daily and it has a touchscreen. I’ve never once used a mouse with it, so clearly I like the touchscreen. But what about some of these other devices like the WiBrain, the Belinea and even jkk’s Eee PC? I’m not seeing the compelling reason to have touch on these devices.

Maybe I’m a bit of a purist, but here’s how I see it. Of course I welcome your feedback and thoughts too; there’s no right answer here.

  • I’ve already stopped using the touchscreen on the WiBrain for three reasons. One: the trackpad is causing cursor float as I use the touchscreen with my right hand and the stylus. Two: the device is clearly designed for two-handed use and it works better with the trackpad and mouse button combination. Three: since I can’t ink on the device, the touchscreen is only good for an inferior navigation method. Truth be told: I think the touchscreen is unnecessary in this device since it’s limited in function and there are better usability options.
  • The Belinea is essentially a Nanobook sub-notebook: it adds touch to the 7-inch screen and the full keyboard. But it’s not a convertible screen, so it’s like having a touchscreen on a standard notebook. How long do you think it will be comfortable to navigate or select menu items on a notebook screen that’s perpendicular to your work surface? If you’re holding the notebook, it’s probably even less comfortable. Again, a convertible (or better yet a slate) would benefit from the touchscreen, but a sub- or standard-sized notebook?

Again, maybe it’s just me and my preference for true tablet devices. There’s quite a bit of hype over touch right now and while I embrace touch-computing on a daily basis, adding a touchscreen to a device doesn’t mean the device is made better. The right applications, operating system and ergonomics come into play here for continued touchscreen use and acceptance.For sake of argument, let’s pretend I had a Belinea in my hands. I’d likely hold it by placing my hands on both sides of the base, where the keyboard is. Sure I could remove one hand and tap on various controls to nav around say in Internet Explorer. It’s great for hopping from link to link. What if I needed to type a URL however? Remember, this is XP Pro so there’s no inking on that touchscreen. I’d have to put the device down and tap out the URL address, click Enter and then I could go back to holding the device to “touch-surf”. Doesn’t sound effective to me. I’m not trying to trash any of the above mentioned devices here, I’m simply questioning what the value of the touchscreen is. I don’t think it’s much from a user perspective; perhaps the device manufacturers would be better off by not including it and keeping the price more in check.Again, I fully believe in touch-computing, but it’s not just the touchscreen alone that adds the value. The right combo of other attributes is a must to justify the inclusion of a touchscreen. Thoughts?