Time for a Standard for Touch?


hp_touchsmart_pc_the_future_is_now_180x110Touch functionality has become a key component of a host of different operating systems on smartphones, laptops and even traditional PCs. So shouldn’t we have some sort of touch standard for developers looking to build to a variety of OSes?

Hewlett-Packard (s hpq) today released an open SDK for its TouchSmart line of products, enabling business developers to create touch apps for desktop and notebook PCs as well as sales or information kiosks. The interface already includes apps from corporate partners such as Hulu, Netflix (s nflx), Pandora and Twitter; HP hopes to grow its list of partners by making the SDK available to the public.

As touch becomes a must-have user interface, developers are increasingly faced with a host of platforms on which to build. In addition to HP, Apple (s appl), Microsoft (s msft) and Dell (s dell) are among those companies looking to bring touch capabilities to traditional computing, and numerous mobile manufacturers, in light of the iPhone’s success, are building their user interfaces around touch. That’s good news for consumers, of course, but it also means developers must work that much harder to build apps for each specific platform. So perhaps it’s time for a standards-based initiative that provides a way for developers to incorporate touch in the apps across a variety of OSes.



I’m not sure standards designed to make developers lives easier would even be welcomed by developers. The key to success sometimes is to stand out in the crowd with something innovative and new; standards can make that difficult.

While standards can make life easier for hardware manufacturers (think Bluetooth, WiFi, etc.) when infrastructure and start-up cost can be high, that’s not true for software development. We can afford to let the market decide the direction of touch.


This is one of those ideas that at first seems like, “yes, that would be great,” until you stop to think about it and realize that it doesn’t make any sense at all in the context it is presented. It would be great if HP, Microsoft and Dell got their acts together and used a unified touch API on Windows instead of hardware manufacturers trying to lock developers into their hardware, but an API that also extended to Apple products? What exactly are you suggesting, a unified API for all Mac and Windows programming? The situation is even more complex when we start including smartphones and other devices, all with different capabilities, user interface conventions and operating systems.

Not to mention that a touchscreen interface on a desktop or laptop computer doesn’t even make sense in and of itself, except for kiosk applications.

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