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Will Windows 7 touchscreens change the way you use your PC?

We look at Microsoft's hyped touch facility in the OS

Touchscreens have certainly become more common on mobile phones since Apple launched the iPhone. But now manufacturers of desktop PCs and laptops are heavily promoting the technology, in preparation for Microsoft's upcoming Windows 7 OS, which features touch capabilities. However, we've got some key concerns about the capability and its usefulness.

Whereas Apple quietly added touch to Mac OS X Leopard a couple years back, Microsoft has hyped its Microsoft Surface technology for more than a year. Beneath this hype has been the suggestion that, with Windows 7, a touch revolution is brewing.

Or maybe not. Two years of avid iPod touch use has got me excited about the idea of touch UIs, so I was eager to try out the vaunted touch technology in Windows 7.

My MacBook Pro has touch capabilities in its trackpad, but I usually run the laptop closed when working at my desk, so its touch capabilities haven't been regularly accessible. The new breed of all-in-one PCs with touch-sensitive screens from Dell and HP promised to change the equation and make touch on the PC as cool and functional as touch on an iPhone.

Well, that was the theory. The truth has been a bitter disappointment. In both Windows 7 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the touch experience has been underwhelming.

Limited deployment is partly to blame, as - despite marketing hype - neither Apple nor Microsoft is making a serious effort to touchify their OSes. For Microsoft, touch seems to be a technology crush it won't admit it's fallen out of love with; for Apple, touch seems to be a key part of its non-PC strategy. (Neither Apple nor Microsoft will talk to us about touch technology.)

Of course, Microsoft and Apple may have reason for not getting serious about touch. After all, outside of the obvious use in self-contained kiosk environments, does touch really make sense on a PC?

My early experience suggests it does not.

On the following pages I have detailed tthe key concerns that make PC touch useless for most people, and that will continue to plague any notion of a 'touch revolution' on the desktop PC for years to come.

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NEXT PAGE: The first of the key concerns

  1. We look at Microsoft's heavily hyped touch capability in the OS
  2. The first of the key concerns
  3. UIs aren't finger-friendly
  4. Gesture-based computing needs a better surface
  5. Why touch remains a tantalising prospect


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