Friday, February 16, 2007

Is the Future in Touch Computing?

Chatting on a couple of email threads I have realized that UMPC will soon be all about the preferred input method. There seems to be a paradigm shift occurring, and I’ve defined this for some time now, towards Tablet PC being seen as a “small pc” rather than a pen based computer. Whether it carries a keyboard or pens it is still going to be a question of your preferred input method, or rather, what are you prepared to put up with? With manufacturers missing the mark on many of the UMPC it seems that these “small PCs” of the future will carry one feature in common, touch!

A friend of mine sent me this picture of the Canova Dual Touch Screen Laptop (source: Bornrich). The first thing that sprang to mind was “how cool!” It seems the dilemma of keyboard as your preferred input has been addressed and so has multi-touch on Tablet. Because these two screens are touch enabled it means a user could call up a software keyboard and type as usual or pull out a pen and use both screens at once.

What was most interesting is that my friend, who happens to be a C4 quadriplegic, might have a completely different view to you or I. In fact he might see this as a savior, where you or I might assume it is a gimmick. I still remember when I sent him his first look at a Tablet, boy that raised a lot of eyebrows. To read more about my friend Dave Wallace make sure you jump onto his blog.

I for one am totally enamored with the qualities of the Touch Screen. It makes computing at the speed of thought one step closer, and, as a result has increased my productivity (or at least perceived productivity).

Here are five reasons I like touch:
  • The “Start” menu; I can always hit “start” with my fingers/or thumb faster than any mouse or joystick
  • Closing windows is always faster (ALWAYS)
  • Snipping tool and a fingernail are my new best friend. With this combination I have spread more mail clippings than I care to remember
  • Sex Factor; touch is sexy and it turns heads. “Put your finger on it” is my new catch cry…try it! LOL
  • Lastly, cost! Touch has brought down the cost of a traditional Tablet PC by more than half, and that has to be a good thing.

I’m interested, is the Pen mightier than the finger, or do we just like little computers? Also, what are your reasons for liking touch (if you do at all).


Elo said...

I was thinking about this this week and trying to find out why no devices have yet made me decide to buy it.

There are so many things I could say about touch. It's definitely a more natural way of interacting with daily tools and we could easily discuss this for pages and pages. There is a lot to be said about the human/machine relation and seeing a rise of interest with touch interfaces (iPhone anyone ?).

The problem with UMPCS if I look at it from my own perspective and how I would use one everyday is that touch would be fantastic but insufficient. I need the best pen input too because I write a lot during a single day. Most people do knowadays and more will as we continue our advance into a more informational and knowledge based economy.

A UMPC that could be mainly touch based but have a way to turn off touch and switch into active mode would be the best of the best for me. I'll tell you what, I think if Samsung made a Q1 with a functionality that allows you to switch between touch and active digitizing, we would have a perfect device; in my opinion and based on how I would use one.

How does that sound ?

Hugo Ortega said...

Elo, now you've gone and done it...opened a can of worms in regards to Touch/Pen combo. I must admit that what you are asking for (touc/Active Digitizer combo) is a very exciting prospect. If you look at the new TabletKiosk slate (i440) then you will see that this is already on the road map.

haveing said this, the fact is that the costs remain so high that an OEM, like TK, can only incorporate (disguise) it in their more expensive models. Which is a long winded way of saying, Q1 ain't getting it anytime soon.

What keeps me optimistic is that this computer/human interaction is now getting even closer than ever, hence touch (and pen) will definitly see the demise of the mouse...big call I know.

I'm glad you see the future as I do touch I also am forced to include pen and in return predict the death of anything other than interactive computing!

Futures bright...gotta where shades. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think a large part of what's appealing about touch is the feeling of direct interaction and control. Literally moving the window by hand is a great feeling. It feels more intuitive to touch the screen to move things around. Eventually I'd like to see HUGE touchscreen TVs. I'd love a 40 inch touch screen to work on. Especially with Multi-touch.

Multi-touch really needs to be made more wide spread. I'm very much looking forward to being able to use multi touch hands on.

By the way, there are touchscreen add ons for laptops and monitors that strap on the screen as a cheaper alternative.

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Anonymous!

Your right, it's the interaction that's key! I like the idea of the turning laptops into touch panel as the user feels somewhat empowered. And, as far as multitouch goes, taht to me is the winner, imagine all the gestures available (shortcuts) via multi touch...

Aaron in SoCal said...


Another great post! I really enjoy reading you on a daily basis to hear your thoughts and the thoughts of other readers.

Now, here is mine ;)

I like the idea of touch but touch isn't the most reliable way of entering data into a system which is what we will always need our computers for. Maybe not exclusively as more machines will be customized for specific things like internet only devices, etc. But for work, we will still need to input data into our machines to store, share and get the bloody things to do what we want/need at the time.

I don't think anyone wants to write even an e-mail with just thier finger!

I simply think the UMPCs need to do a better job at that.

Tabletkiosk (7110) and Asus have already demonstrated by simply using a heavier weighted screen, you can have the best of both worlds without too much of a sacrifice at either end. And both of those units are under $1,000 US.

I think what you and Elo are talking about is already here, Samsung Q1 and the TK 7209 and 7210 veer too far toward touch and leave pen input behind because of their far "lighter" screens.

If all UMPC and Tablet PC manufacturers adopted the heavier weighted screen, cost would continue to come down while keeping the touch and ink camps (mostly) pretty happy.

What we need is a (mostly) happy middle ground, not an either/or scenario that we have had in the past.

My two cents anyway.

Keep up the good work.

Aaron in SoCal

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Aaron from SoCal,

I think you've been watching too many of my vidoes as you're starting to sound like a "mini-me"...LOL

The only thing I would add is this, the middle ground is the Active Digitzer. It is the mising Pen input that is so valuable and yet lost by the touch screen. Remember my conversations about "hover" and "x,y,z" coordinate? That's where the magic is and touch just just does not have least not now anyway. So the middle ground for me is bring down the cost of the Active Digitzer and incorporate Touch too.

Love your comment and unbridle enthusiasm for Tablet!


Alessio said...

Hi Mr Ortega,
have ever seen or tried the Flybook? take a look at and tell us what do you think about

Steven said...

I have to tell you. I just finished teaching my lecture class. I teach freshman chemistry. I borrowed a friend's tablet (HP1100) and used Powerpoint slides. I employed the pen to work out some problems, draw some structures, etc.
The class was enamored. They sat still and quiet and appeared to absorb the information so much better than a "canned" delivery, or even versus the overhead projector that I use to give a "pen" affect.
I am pumped about inking. My R2H will be here next week! Now, I need a way to send Powerpoint to the projector wirelessly so I can roam the room.
I like my mouse for right-clicking, highlighting, copy, paste, etc. Can this be done as seamlessly through touch?


Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Alessio,

The Flybook is a device I "think" I like but I have never spent time with it. If the company would like to send me one then I wouldn't turn it away. ;-)


Hi Steven,

Thanks for the great comment. I think the kids learn and absorb more as they are exposed to technology to a higher degree, earlier, than ever before. What you did, via the Tablet, is communicate to them at their level...nice job!

As far as communicating wirelessly I am no expert here but I believe there are two options. One, is buy a bluetooth projector and connect to it via bluetooth. (Anyone know of one specifically?) Two, is to use a 802.11 wireless VGA extender. (Anyone know a better one specifically?)

Thanks for the great feedback

Steven said...

I am thinking about something along these lines.


Hugo Ortega said...

Hey Steven,

Now that's the biz! Very nice. Looks as though you could carry a UMPC and this at the same time, i.e. walk and present. Keep me posted on developments.

Anonymous said...

could you tell me wich umpc would be good for taking notes using the pen. i was looking at the r2h
ps. i am in the U.S. if that matters

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Anonymous,

Doesn't matter where you are, the answers are the same. :-)

Look at this video "Five Different UMPC" and you should be empowered anough to make a educated decision.

If you'd like to discuss any topics after watching the video please leave a comment and I'll get to the answer ASAP.

Best wishes!

Aaron in CoCal said...

Yes Hugo, I HAVE been watching your video reviews :D

I am currently using a tablet and do enjoy the "X,Y,Z" coordinate that you mentioned in your 5 UMPC comparison review. However, from what I've seen on your piece and heard from folks at, they aren't missing it.

What continues to vex everyone (myself included) is the vectoring with the 80 gram digitizer screens. Matt (GTB) raves about the inking experience on his R2H (120 gram) which (along with your video) is making me lean strongly toward that model over all other current UMPC models.

Would I miss hover? Probably, but as long as the inking was as close to the tabletpc version minus the vectoring, I could (and probably would) get used to it quickly.

Just doing a quick test of various applications on my XP desktop using my mouse and "hover" isn't anywhere to be found as my mouse is using the X,Y coordinates only.

Still seems to me the best compromise would be the heavier weighted screens to satisfy both camps of users. Especially since the OEMs say adding the active digitizer screen is what keeps the price of tablets so much higher than laptops.

Give them the other option and it *should* lower the price.

Hugo Ortega said...

Hey Aaron in SoCal,

Not only have you overwhelmed me with just how much you've paid attention, but also with the fact that my message is being heard. What you've been able to do is validate the necessity for blogs like these (GottaBe inlcuded). We can only give information, what you do with it after that is purely going to be a reflection of how much you need/want this information.

Your thoughts are valid and in fact well placed.I for one value the hover however the pricepoint is what makes UMPC a winner for me. It is the loss of Active Digitizer that that keeps this cost down so what I am waiting for is the release fo the Active Digitizer version.

For me, the R2H is too weighed down with cumbersome ASUS software. If all that (out of the box) was a better experience, then I would have a lot easier time recommending it. As it is now, it is difficult as most people out there aren't as geekish as you or I, and therefore not as inclined to make it work for them. If handwriting was the criteria then yes, it beats the V7110, but not the P1610 for me (which is not a UMPC but should be "almost" clasified as one). It has better battery life and more features. Sorry ASUS.

THanks again Aaron, you rock!

Elo said...

Active digitizer is definitely the sweet spot for me. I love the Q1 form factor much better than the Asus (looks too blocky for my taste) but I can't let go of the inking experience from an active digitizer. With hover there really is not use for a mouse. I will definitely get a UMPC very soon, that I am sure. I now see how useful it can be. But until I see a Q1 that offers active digitizing, I will wait.

For now, I am strongly and confidently looking at the Toshiba R400 for its portability. I wonder if the Australian version has the Ultra Wide Band feature for the futur docking options ? If only I could find another provider than HT...

Hugo Ortega said...

hi ELO,

I agree with you. The hover, yeah OK, but the actual inking-ability that comes from an activedigitizer, that's the sweet spot for me.

contact sales at tegatech dot com dot au and they willing happily get you into a Toshiba R400. :-)

Elo said...

Hey, maybe I could do that, Hugo, but you could review it before sending it off to me! Hmm... interesting idea here. Let me think and ponder this for a few hours!

Gabriel Gonzalez said...

wow, this device is amazing! I am eager to see all the new kind of touch devices I am sure will appear in the near future.
I want to touch everywhere! :D

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi's Geek Pornography isn't it!?!? LOL