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August 31st 2012 12:16 pm

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?

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10 replies

It sure seems like it, its mostly that its the perfect storm of technologies that makes this image of computing suddenly possible and actually attractive:
  1. Ultra low voltage processors
  2. Better batteries
  3. Capacitive multitouch
  4. Solid state storage
  5. Almost Ubiquitous wireless connectivity
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Yes. I feel from my brief experiences with the Windows 8 previews (on a non touch screen) that the OS would be more enjoyable on a touchscreen.

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.
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I'd have confidence in Dell being ok on that front with the amount of convertible tablets they've made over the years. Plus you can't forget they did a laptop previously like the XPS 12 Duo but the name is escaping me right now.
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I believe it was the Inspiron Duo (gdgt.com­/dell­/inspiron­/duo/). They obviously like the Duo name (as does Sony)!
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It's a legitimate concern. Lenovo (via their ThinkPad line) certainly know what they're doing when it comes to hinges though.
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I hope so and think so.
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.
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Still feeling odd and inconvenient about touching,typing and touching.
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We might need to have a list of new caterogy names. :)

When people complained about MSFT Surface, not being able to use on their lap. It came to me, that is why it is call a Surface. (A slate which can also work well on flat surface).

Thanks for reading. Cheers.
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NUI is the future and touch is a very important part of it. So, yeah. Windows 8 is boosting this in a huge way allowing a new wave of form factors unlike anything that has been done before at this level. It's an exciting time!
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I think the notebook/laptop as we know will be dead. As the launch of Windows 8 is ever looming closer, there isn't a single OEM that would be foolhardy enough to build a Windows 7 machine now.

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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