Multitouch Trackpad vs. Touch Screen Computing

I have some friends (mac-using friends) who are gaga over some of the new commercials they’ve seen of touch screen Windows-capable machines — namely the HP TouchSmart PCs. On one level I understand — that stuff looks cool! But I quickly come back and think, realistically how useful is this? When I pointed this out to my lovely wife, her retort was along the lines of, “Don’t you still dream about having that computer from Minority Report?” Touche. But in the real world (as opposed to what Hollywood likes to portray) as computers and monitors exist now, is this really what we want? Appease me while I argue a skosh. (Feel free to get involved in the comments!)

I’m one of those, along with many I know, that prefer people to keep their fingers off my screen when pointing to or talking about something on my computer. I hate smears. Multiply this times n when a glossy screen is present — which of course is always now with the new MacBook lineup. (Has anyone else noticed that the glossy coating on the new MacBooks is even more of a magnet for smudges than the old?!)

Then there’s the other categorization of computer users: those who keep their hands on the keyboard as much of the time as possible, and those who live and die by their mouse. Like a good nerd, I tend to be the former. But even for the mouse-lovers amongst us, it’s little more than a lateral sweep of the arm to the side and back to the keyboard. These new touch screen computers require an actual reach up and around to the screen to do whatever it is you need.

For me, these are two very solid reasons as to why the Hollywood idea of touch computing doesn’t jive with real world applications. At least not at this point in time.

The above reasons, however, highlight precisely why Apple’s multitouch trackpads seem to be hitting a sweet spot for those interested in touch computing. With this larger than life trackpad on my new MacBook (nearly three times larger than that of the new Dell I just got at work) I get the option to play with gestures and touch computing without the hassle of reaching all over the place, or smearing my gorgeous display. The current support for multitouch on Macs is still in its infancy, yet there’s a great deal of flexibility. We’ve already seen where Firefox has gotten into the mix, as has Curio (and likely others that I’m unaware of at the moment). I can only imagine that a wide array of options for leveraging this is just around the corner.

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