One of the biggest, if not the biggest, shortcomings of Windows 7 as a tablet operating system is the fact that it is not touch-centric; it is still designed first and foremost for keyboard/mouse input.
Microsoft plans to remedy this with Windows 8. But that's hardly the only touch-centric technology it has in the hopper.
Last week, Microsoft made available for download the Surface 2.0 software development kit for the next-generation Surface touch systems and Windows 7 PCs. On July 19, Microsoft began delivering a Microsoft Touch Mouse. And according to a couple of new Microsoft job posts, there are more touch technologies in the works from the Visual Studio and Windows Live teams.
First, the touch mouse. Microsoft already has one touch mouse in the market (the Arc Touch mouse) and previewed another (simply known as the Touch Mouse) earlier this year. Today, the Redmondians began shipping announced a third: The Explorer Touch Mouse -- a wireless mouse that supports horizontal and lateral tracking. It costs $49.95 and is said to offer 18 months of battery life. The Explorer Touch Mouse isn't available until September.
I've got to say I'm tempted to try one of these, as my regular mouse has really started cramping my style (and my mousing hand).
On to the next touchy topic: Coming touch tools and apps.
One recent job post for a program manager mentions there are new Visual Studio tools coming for touch-optimized Windows 8 PCs, and not much else to go on. From that post:
"You’ve already heard all the buzz about the next release of Windows, internally codenamed 'Windows 8' as announced at the All Things D conference in California on June 1st. This is your chance to work on the new Visual Studio tools that will enable developers to build these new, touch-optimized applications for Windows 8-based PC’s. Don’t you want to be a part of delivering the new set of tools to help developers build apps for this new and innovative platform?
"As part of the Windows Tools team, you will be centrally positioned to directly impact the lives and creative content of all our customers. In this role, you will act as customer advocate for features and work with other Program Managers, Architects, Developers and Software Test Engineers to design the perfect developer experience for developing these applications. Your involvement will span multiple partner teams as your features will be core to their experiences as well. The Windows Tools team has the charter to shape and deliver high-quality developer experiences in Visual Studio, blending project creation, building, debugging, deployment of these applications for the most successful operating system in the world."
Then there's this job post for a software development engineer on the Windows Live team who will be focusing on touch-first experiences:
"The next version of Windows, codenamed “Windows 8” (http//j.mp/win8jlg), emphasizes touch-first, modern experiences. Want to get involved? Come join the team building photos/videos experiences for the new platform. We believe in shipping fast, fluid, immersive experiences to consumers, enabling them to effortlessly do spectacular things. Past work from this team includes Photo e-mail (http://j.mp/wlmphomail), Photo Fuse (http://j.mp/wlpgpf), Pano Stitch (http://j.mp/wlpgps), and AutoMovie (http://j.mp/wlmmam). We’re now working on new touch-oriented experiences that allow the hundreds of millions of consumers easily communicate with their friends. We offer an environment where you can channel your creativity towards software innovation, work with world-class software engineers and hone your professional skills to grow your career."
It's not clear whether the new touch-oriented "experiences" mentioned in this post are simply updates and/or extensions of existing Windows Live Essentials software/service add-ons (for the coming Wave 5 release, which may arrive sometime in the next year or two) or brand-new Windows Live apps.