Will touchscreens become a standard feature on laptops?
As we've just seen from IFA 2012, a lot of manufacturers will be rolling out touchscreen laptops (and a few desktops) in the coming months, including Dell, Sony, Samsung, HP, Lenovo and Acer. These new models will, of course, be tied to the launch of the touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system, and will also compete against Microsoft's own Surface tablets.
While some of the new models will run the scaled-down Windows RT, and will be more like traditional iPads and Android tablets, many will be full-fledged laptops, able to run the desktop-strength version of Windows. Many will have detachable keyboards, swiveling displays, or other elements designed to make it easy to switch between keyboard and touch modes.
While these may sound a little like the convertible laptops Microsoft has been pushing manufacturers to produce for over two decades (Windows for Pen Computing was first released in 1991), they're also something of a break from that legacy. Until now, Windows tablets focused very heavily on pen input and enterprise applications, and were mostly sold as expensive, high-end models -- or were experimental side projects like the ill-fated UMPC.
Windows 8, with its focus on touch and gestures across-the-board -- not to mention the exponential growth of the low-end tablet market -- promises to change things radically. In a year, touchscreens may be the norm on laptops, and twisting, swiveling, detachable displays, will join touchpads as standard, mainstream features. I'm looking forward to that.
What do you think?
- Ultra low voltage processors
- Better batteries
- Capacitive multitouch
- Solid state storage
- Almost Ubiquitous wireless connectivity
However I am worried about the hinges on all these laptops that "transform" like the Lenovo Ideapad yoga and the Dell XPS12 Duo (especially the Dell XPS 12 Duo). These things would have to survive multiple uses a day from me over the course of years. I am not sure they look up to the task yet. If a hinge goes, the repair will not be easy.
Touchscreen interfaces are typically much easier and intuitive to use, and so provide a much gentler learning curve and lower barrier to entry for people who struggle with computing devices (elderly people, people with learning disabilities etc) generally and younger children (toddlers can understand an ipad) and a large input surface and touching what you see is typically much easier for people with physical disabilities too.
This would also mean a single device can be used both as a computer for editing/organising photos, music collections, videos-of-the-grandkids; syncing your phone/ipod/sonos/media centre; work on your next novel or compiling that code in the middle of the night AND as a tablet for consuming media or sitting with on the couch to browse tumblr for six hours or IMDB looking up all the other movies Tom Hardy's been in.
Even if Windows 8 flops, there really isn't much of a choice elsewhere:
* Google's Android Jellybean runs best in touch-mode with keyboard as an option. ChromeOS may be an alternative, but I use the word 'alternative' in the loosest sense of the word.
* iOS is designed for touch, so that's a no-go. Mac OSX is getting more and more goodies from iOS, so touchscreen is a matter of 'when' not 'if'.
*Lastly, there's the Linux distros. Yes, they are not really touch-oriented, so technically, OEMs can try this as Plan Z. But it's Plan Z for a reason, no OEM has ever made a successful Linux distro-based notebook.
Flop or not, like it or not, Windows 8 will be on every notebook, laptop, and non-Apple tablet device.
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