October 13, 2009, 8:14 AM — HP is launching a new line of touch-enabled machines today, both laptops and desktops. I smell an embargo expiring as sites all over the web have articles up this morning. VentureBeat has good coverage of the new hardware. The desktop models are all-in-one devices; think iMac with a touchscreen.
I've always thought that a touchscreen on a desktop computer is interesting in theory but nothing I'd want to use in practice, partially because I'm a bit OCD when it comes to smudges on my screen, but mostly because using a vertical touchscreen seems awkward. Consider the difference between writing on a whiteboard and writing on a horizontal surface: there's a reason your elementary school teacher used writing a message on the chalkboard 100 times as a punishment!
Turns out I'm not alone in my thinking. TechCrunch has a pair of very interesting posts this morning, one called "Why Desktop Touch Screens Don’t Really Work Well For Humans" which talks about the problems (summary: our arms tire quickly when working above heart level, and our hands obscure our view of the screen) and another on an experimental interface system called 10/Gui. 10/Gui removes the touchscreen from the display and places it horizontally on your desktop (solving the two major touchscreen issues), then tracks all ten of your fingers. It also introduces a more structured windowing system. The 10/Gui folks have prepared a video describing their system which I'll embed below. This is a concept, not a commercial product, but I found it very interesting and hope you will as well.
The one flaw that I see in the system is desktop real estate. If you have a touchscreen large enough to accommodate both hands, where would it go? It'd have to be front and center on your desk, which means it'd have to replace your keyboard. The touchscreen would have to have a virtual keyboard, but are we really ready to do all our typing on a virtual keyboard?