Multi-touch laptops from HP could be available within 18 months, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

The PC giant has been leading the way with touchscreen computers over the past 18 months, recently launching the second model in its TouchSmart desktop line. However, the WSJ says the company is now turning its attention to laptops, claiming touch is the "almost preferred [input] method for nontechnical users".

HP TouchSmart IQ506 review

The rumoured 18-month lead time before HP's multi-touch laptops hit the market seems to fit in with Microsoft's plans for building up the touchscreen capabilities of its Windows operating system.

In May, the software giant demonstrated a multitouch interface for its upcoming 'Windows 7' OS, which is expected to hit the market in 2010.

In the demo to the Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Windows experience program management, showed a number of applications that could use the multitouch technology, including photography applications that enable a user to handle photos on the screen more easily. For example, users could drag and drop snaps, zoom in, and rotate images with their fingers, while the musically inclined could play with their fingers on an on-screen piano keyboard.

Watch the Windows 7 'multi-touch' demo