We look at Microsoft's hyped touch facility in the OS
Touchscreens have certainly become more common over the past few years and now Microsoft will be joining the flock, as Windows 7 features touch capabilities. However, we've got some key concerns about the capability and its usefulness.
Why touch remains a tantalising prospect
Despite all these issues, the promise of touch remains tantalising, as I'm reminded every day when I use my iPod touch.
On IE8 or Safari, manipulating them by touch with zoom and scroll gestures simply feels better than using a mouse. It's natural to touch the map, as you would a physical map or globe. And if you've ever used Google Earth on an iPhone, you know how the desktop version feels like a pale imitation simply because you can't manipulate it as directly.
But there's a chicken-and-egg issue to resolve. Few apps cry out for a touch UI, so Microsoft and Apple can continue to get away with merely dabbling with touch as an occasional mouse-based substitute. It would take one or both of these OS makers to truly touchify their platforms, using common components to pull touch into a great number of apps automatically.
Without a clear demand, their incentive to do so doesn't exist.
I'm hoping that Apple's long-rumored tablet based on the iPod Touch might create the demand, by bringing a touch interface to a device that is more computer-like and thus might stimulate touch UI development that would more easily translate to the desktop/laptop experience.
That's a big 'if', since no-one outside of Apple really knows what such a device would do or, indeed, if it even exists.
But if Apple changes the game in the touch-based tablet world, that could give both the OS makers and app developers the incentive to make touch more than a skin-deep graft onto Windows or Mac OS X. My money is on Apple, not Microsoft, to be the one that gets serious about touch, if anyone does.
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See also: Watch the Windows 7 'multi-touch' demo
- We look at Microsoft's heavily hyped touch capability in the OS
- The first of the key concerns
- UIs aren't finger-friendly
- Gesture-based computing needs a better surface
- Why touch remains a tantalising prospect