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Touch for the Sake of Touch


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal covered  touch-screen computers and the increased focus on the technology in Windows 7.  And if you watch tv you’ve probably seen commercials for the HP touch screen desktop promoted heavily during the holidays.  By many accounts the TouchSmart is selling well, currently at number 9 on the Amazon bestseller list for desktops. Behind various Macs. I believe it was much higher on the list a few weeks ago, but I haven’t researched that.  There’s a laptop too, but apparently its touch technology isn’t stellar.

But why does anyone want a touch-screen desktop?  As a cash-register or kiosk, fine.  But that’s a specialty market and the consumer oriented TouchSmart is unlikely to fill that role.  Murphy can only see one place he’d use such a machine:  In the kitchen.  And even then – only if olive oil wouldn’t trash the display.

A touch-screen iMac would make a great kitchen machine.  It’s there for watching movies or televsion while cooking.  Throw in an Elgato EyeTV device and you’re in the catbird seat.   Recipes, calendars, yada yada

In my office?  No.  A touch screen desktop is an ergonomic nightmare.  And a laptop wouldn’t be much better.  It’s bad enough reaching for a mouse.  Just thinking about extending my muscle-bound arms to the screen makes my back hurt.  And for what gain?  Dragging something on a touch screen could involve over a foot of travel.  Using a trackpad or mouse you can get the same movement with a 10mm finger twitch.

Sure, touch screen interfaces are highly intuitive.  iPhone speaks for itself.  But just because a technology becomes available doesn’t mean it’s time to use it.  I’ll wait for the tablet.

Anyone interested in touch screens for traditional laptops and desktop computers?

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5 comments to “Touch for the Sake of Touch”

  1. 100% OK with you. I do not see touch UI for desktop right now.
    On a bigger iPod/tablet this could be useful. But OS X won’t be ready for touch until at least X.7

    The latest HP touch try seems to be more a gadget layer over Vista rather than something useful across the whole OS.

    Anyway, who will clean the screen after that? 😉

  2. I had the same reaction, but I’d be willing to try it out if the software/hardware were designed to use it well. At least on a laptop. Don’t think I’d pay much for what I’m guessing would probably be an infrequently used convenience.

  3. How about mounted to a wall in an office? Say a Dr.’s office…You can all the patients records available right there. Multimedia, x-rays, MRI, lab results. I know there is one company doing just that and will launch shortly.

  4. My dentist has that, but they do it with the remote, not a touch screen. The screen is up in the corner – out of the way. The interface actually looks quite efficient. The rest of the time patients can watch TV on it.

  5. I agree with Murphy’s uses/non-uses for a touch screen.

    I would add another use: for mixing sound, video and lighting, on a virtual mixer. A virtual mixer gives you great features such as scenes. You can move the sliders with a mouse, but only one at a time. With a multi-touch screen on an iMac which is laid back nearly horizontal, you could move multiple sliders with multiple fingers. This would give you almost the operation of a physical mixer, but with all the great benefits of going virtual.

    By the way, this raises another issue: When will they develop a touch screen with touch? In the above example, what is missing is being able to feel the sliders while you’re watching what goes on on stage. With a touch screen you’ll have to watch what you’re doing, or you might not have your fingers on the sliders at all. This would also have great applications for blind computing.

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