While the mouse isn't an endangered species, yet - It looks like touch is could be the future of user interaction, if the Windows engineers get their way.
With Windows 7 Release Candidate listed as due in May, thanks to a slip of a Microsoft digit
, the final code is almost within touching distance, Microsoft engineers are candidly discussing the touch features of the OS.
Before the arguments start, touch technology did not start with Apple, Microsoft, or even the Nakatomi Corporation from Die Hard. The University of Illinois first produced a practical example back in the 60s, if you believe Wikipedia.
When not blowing stuff up, John McClane was into his gadgets (Image: 20th Century Fox)
Windows 7 will be the first Windows operating system to offer direct contact between home users
and, a suitable, screen (kiosk systems, gimmicks and other business uses excluded). With HP's TouchSmart
and Dell's Latitude XT
systems already on the market, this could be the start of something big, or alternatively it might end up being a tiny niche that lives alongside LightScribe
discs and Wacom
tablets (unless you're a designer in which case, that's okay) in the pantheon of PC hardware. (Then again, when you consider the implications of a touch screen coupled with Microsoft Paint, the kid-driven buying habits of parents may well give touchscreen PCs the boost they need.)
Dell's new Latitude is touch-capable and available now!
Windows Engineering has broken cover on the latest blog
with all the details about touch technology. Among the highlights are many points of interest, including:Touch gestures:
Windows 7 has a simple set of touch gestures that work in many existing applications. These include the basics of tap and drag, as well as scroll, right-click, back, forward, zoom, and rotate.Improved high DPI support:
The broad benefit to touch is that UI elements are rendered closer to their intended size – usually larger – which makes small buttons, links, and other targets easier to access with touch.Refinements to key experiences:
The top browsing and media activities were refined to provide an optimized touch experience.
There is also some deeper discussion and statistics about how we will get used to the gestures, following the mantra, "predictable + reliable = habits". There's a practical look how it will work with all the various hardware, plus some clever insights into how they got it all to work in the first place. With video examples of how sexy the results can be, this is a worthwhile read.