Will Windows 8 drive sales of touchscreen notebooks?

Will Windows 8 drive sales of touchscreen notebooks?

Summary: Notebooks were never designed for you to go touching the screen, and trying to retrofit touchscreen technology onto them will need more innovative thinking than just replacing the panel.


Intel is hoping that Windows 8 will drive the sales of touchscreen notebooks. I'm not convinced.

Touchscreen technology on a desktop or notebook PC is one of those things that sounds great in theory, but when you try to put it into practice you realize that it doesn't really work as well as you'd expect for a variety of reasons. For now, let's ignore desktops and consider the problems with touch technology exclusively on notebook systems.

The first issue is one that ZDNet's James Kendrick points out in his piece - reaching over a keyboard to touch a screen is just not a comfortable configuration. It would be fine for the odd touch here and there, but who's going to spend the big bucks on a touchscreen notebook only to use it occasionally?

Even if you do possess long arms or don't find reaching over the keyboard that much of a drag, the screen on most notebooks just doesn't want to be touched. Try it with your own notebook and see what happens. The screen wobbles because you're putting unnatural pressure on the hinge, the notebook tips back and forth because the balance is all wrong, and the screen quickly starts to gather more grease than a short order cook's apron.

Notebooks were never designed for you to go touching the screen, and trying to retrofit touchscreen technology onto them will need more innovative thinking than just replacing the panel.

But what about convertible notebooks with rotating screens? Do they work better? Well, yes and no. You do get the best of both worlds in that the device has both a touchscreen and a keyboard, but if you want to make use of the keyboard then the touchscreen is pretty much defunct for the reasons outlined above. When the convertible is in touchscreen mode, you've then essentially got a hybrid tablet system that's thicker and heavier than an ordinary tablet.

So it's all a compromise.

Finally, there is an issue of price. Touchscreen and convertible notebooks aren't cheap, and I can't see the cost falling to mainstream levels any time soon. When it comes to widespread adoption, piece is the key factor, and the price isn't going to be right for this to happen any time soon.

Image credit: Lenovo.


Topics: Software, Hardware, Laptops, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Windows

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  • add to those reason the fact that

    windoze 8 will be the next big flop and the touch screen notebooks are even less desirable.
    The Linux Geek
  • Completely disagree

    I completely disagree. Have you tried the Asus Eepad transformer? It is awesome. My only criticism is it's width which it has to be because of the keyboard. The fact that you can detach from the keyboard is awesome. Now if you could only use the keyboard separately/wirelessly/connection free from the tablet that would be awesome. The way forward is a new breed of laptop. A tablet/slate that mimics the ipad but with keyboard option (with integrated battery of course). Managing IT in an org of 5000 users I can really see our most agile staff loving this. Meetings, to and from various offices, managing across departments. Its a perfect fit. Now if I could only get that with Windows, oh wait maybe I can - windows 8. Biggest disappointment though is that we wont be able to use ARM technology and implement our security. This means that we will be left with very hot, battery consuming devices. Big frustration with Msoft. Such a missed opportunity. It means that we will still have Execs wanting their ipads despite the security issues and trans-app lack of interoperability and difficulty in getting corporate apps onto it (if we wanted to!). Thank you Citrix for at least providing us with a on-net option for BYOD iPad users. At least someone is thinking straight.
    • Perhaps this was an awesome display of parody.

      And I missed it. How many of your users are the most agile? Grammatically speaking, there should be only one, but I understand how common usage works. So, 100? 1000? And what will those 4900 or 4000 users of lesser (or even no) agility think about it? Are they agile in terms of coding techniques (XP yesterday, Agile today, Maintainers tomorrow) or physical coordination?

      And darn those users (like those capital-e Execs) who don't know not-awesome when it's right there at their fingertips. Why oh why don't they know they miss the keyboard that they had been using until very recently? We keep telling them they are unhappy and unproductive and they just stare back and then ask us if there isn't a Cloud service salesman we need to see. And why do they insist that we, the IT department, work for them and not the other way around? We don't want to port our apps. It makes us all frowny-faced and feeling quite non-awesome.
      • Not sure I get you

        You criticise my grammar but not my points. You rant about Exec misunderstanding of IT and yet even IT people get all excited about the cloud like its some magical solution to everything. Its the frickin' Internet with some Data Centres! But thankfully our Execs are well informed through proactive business engagement by IT and they trust us to lead them forward through the sales-speak of non-IT people fronting huts with some old servers, a couple of developers, providing "cloud services"! (i do know some good 'cloud service providers' but unfortunately many I have found to be phoney - an embarrasement to the IT profession- either poor product or more costly overall or both).
    • Medfield, followed by Cedar Trail

      Intel has released the Atom Medfield chip which has been adopted by Google to power Android smartphones and tablets. Next comes Cedar Trail that will power x86 tablets for W8. Both of these chips are SoC with much higher performing graphics than what we're used to seeing with Atom. Both are capable of capturing 1080p. Cedar Trail, I believe will be about 3.5 TDP watts peak and averaging under 2 watts for normal use. In 2013, Atom goes from 32 nm to 22 nm and then down to 14 nm in 2014. From here on out, Atom chips have significant power management baked into them. Even the Nvidia CEO admitted Intel's current crop of Atom chips are now competitive with ARM in terms of power. So don't worry, your company will be able to purchase $500 and up W8 tablets running x86 with the Metro interface, classic Windows desktop and all the AD security policies that you're used to. Oh, and you do realize that Medfield, Cedar Trail, etc. are all fanless, no? So they won't be "hot" as you describe.
    • The way forward is an iPad (?)

      heidimoose: The way forward is a new breed of laptop. A tablet/slate that mimics the ipad but with keyboard option (with integrated battery of course).

      I'm not entirely sure that I agree with this statement, but if I did, why do we need a "new breed of laptop" when you can use an iPad with a compact, fairly light Apple Bluetooth keyboard?
    • Samsung Slate already shows light, cool x64 i5 tablet with almost all day

      So why do you continue the 'very hot, battery consuming devices', unless you just want to rant FUD?
  • Touchscreen is here to stay

    The future is touchscreen. No getting away from it. Perhaps this will mean touchscreen plates/screens on our desks as the main input, with option of on screen or off screen keyboard. Perhaps it will be touch interfaces at desk level and screens just for large view. Then take the touch interface with you for a light mobile solution. Not a workhorse laptop, but thats not what laptops are for in the workplace. Who knows nut touchscreen is not going to go away.

    I was super sceptical about the work application for an iPad until I got one given to me to try. I am addicted, and not to the games! In meetings I am super productive whilst others shuffle papers or hi behind laptops. Everyone can see my face. I can take minutes. I can check my email and respond to emails whilst appearing to take minutes. I can say, wait a sec Ill just check the diaries... I can fire off an email to a colleague to check their opinion whilst continuing the discussion. I can look up an unknown term or item on the web whilst continuing engagement. I take it everywhere. So it means i sometimes work at weekends and in evenings. It doesnt destroy my work life balance, it helps me manage it.
    • I agree

      that touchscreens are here to stay & I don't think this article was trying to deny that. I think what Adrian is trying to get at, and correct me if I'm wrong, is if touchscreens are viable and useful on traditional desktops and laptops. Absolutely on the new devices (ie: tablets and smartphones) and "surfaces" touchscreens are the future.

      On a site note, I would take your analogy further and state that Natural User Interfaces (ie: touch, gestures, voice, facial recognition, etc.) are the future of UI.
      • Bingo

        Fingerprints on my laptops screen, or worse mega inches of screen real estate of my desktops is not a direction we're heading. Apple (again) got it right, move the touch to a trackpad for these form factors.

        Go MS prove me wrong;-)
        Richard Flude
    • But can't you type...

      10 times faster on a proper keyboard than a soft keyboard? I type without looking at the screen so if I were to take meeting notes, I could be much more engaged in the discussion if I were using a laptop instead of a tablet. I don't mind tablets, but I cannot stand typing on them.
    • Casual Use

      Yes, touchscreens are here to stay--for casual business use, and certainly not for any kind of intensive data entry. So, why did MS create Windows-8 for just such a limited use, and abandon those whose use laptops and desktops as their main device?
  • Will Windows 8 drive sales of touchscreen notebooks?

    Yes it will.

    [i]I???m not convinced.[/i]
    No surprise there. You are all things anti-MS over the last few years.

    [i]The first issue is one that ZDNet???s James Kendrick points out in his piece - reaching over a keyboard to touch a screen is just not a comfortable configuration.[/i]
    Just how far do you think you have to reach? The notebook is on your lap. Its on the table right in front of you. Its already in your hand if its a convertible. you are looking at a distance of maybe 12 inches at the most, shorter than the average person's arm.

    [i]the screen on most notebooks just doesn???t want to be touched. Try it with your own notebook and see what happens. The screen wobbles because you???re putting unnatural pressure on the hinge, the notebook tips back and forth because the balance is all wrong, and the screen quickly starts to gather more grease than a short order cook???s apron.[/i]
    And you don't think they thought about this during testing? That calls for a facepalm. Maybe they will have stronger hinges or lock hinges, or if its a convertible, you flip it over and fold it down with no need to worry about the wobbly screen.

    [i]Finally, there is an issue of price.[/i]
    There is a whole segment of the technology market that is used to paying over $1000 per pop for a notebook and ultrabook. I don't see this being any different..
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Paying thousands for the features that are not needed

      Nobody wants to pay more than $500 for a touch personal computing device. The segment that paid thousands for Windows tablets is very small. This is why Windows tablets never took off and iPad became a runaway success.

      iPad has no gimmicks, lower price, superior quality and is easier to use. One device that works. Not thousands models that don't. Not thousands of models that compromise on quality for the sake of... how much lower price?
      • Seriously?

        The iPad itself is a gimmick. Sure, it is functional but not a PC or Laptop Replacement!
      • Say What?!?

        Touchscreen Notebooks - expensive - cost and battery life killed it for standard use.
        If there is a new line that has good battery life and cheap - maybe.
        I see it more like a line of Transformer type running Win8 with keyboard docks or similar - hybrids.

        iPad? Not a computer and cannot be used for standard computer needs. Great consumptive device and in specific cases can be a creation device - but not mainstream. Missing function and general ports and expandability.
        BTDTDW (Been There, Done That, Didn't Work)
      • Wanna bet?

        How much you wanna bet that Apple will soon release a touch MBA? Touch is the logical next place to go. And Apple will sell millions. After Apple does, all of a sudden everyone will follow and slap themselves on the side of their head and say, "Why didn't I think of that!"
  • Also

    Oh and the photo embed into meeting notes is another huge bonus. Take a pic of a whiteboard, and diagram, or an object and embed in the meeting notes right away or fire off in an email to a collegue. Dont knock it until you have truly tried it.
  • Gimmicky and redundant

    Did they invent a laptop already which screen won't shake or tip over when touched? Did they add even more weight to the keyboard half to make it more stable in case I get frustrated by the cheap low quality touch and decided to hit the screen hard?

    On the other hand, if the device is designed primarily for touch use, why should I pay for the unused keyboard and then carry around its weight? I'd rather have a separate wireless keyboard or a dock. Asus transformer looks great, but I don't want to be tied to a small keyboard when typing.
    • Inconsistent criticism

      Picky picky picky. If you dont like a small keyboard, i sippose you dont use the keyboard on your iPad?!? Oh wait, you do? Yes thats because it is useful in certain circumstances. You sacrifice keyboard size for trwnsportability.

      If you want a full sized desktop, get a full sized desktop. But if you are looking for a secure, full featured ultra portable unobtrusive device, the windows 8 tablet is the only fit. Preferably something akin to the Asus transofrmer that is yet to be manufactured, but I believe Dell and HP have plans so I hear.

      And the Asus Transformer certainly is hinged strongly enough and doesnt tip over. How hard do you touch your touchscreen anyway?! Of course trying to mimic how you would interact with a touchscreen device on a traditional laptop leaves you wondering how on earth it is achievable. It wasnt designed for that!!