I popped into PC World yesterday evening after a client meeting in Plymouth. PC World is now the only physical PC superstore in the UK since the loss of Comet in January. I wanted to check out a Windows 8 laptop, and in particular a touch screen one. Why have a touch screen on a laptop? Good question and one that I have been grappling with as the time has come to upgrade my travelling office which currently comprises:
- Dell Studio laptop with a super high resolution 15.6 inch screen running Windows Vista (nice PC but weighs a ton)
- Acer AspireOne Netbook with a high resolution 11 inch screen running Vista very slowly (but it lasts 8 hours on a charge and is super compact)
- iPad (the original one that I won at an E-Learning Network event back in 2010)
- iPhone 4
So back to that touch screen question. Steve Jobs (my eulogy here) said that they would never catch-on. His view was that no one will find using a touch screen in an upright position comfortable.
You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user. Tim Cook from Apple on convertible tablet PCs
Well I’ve been playing and I’ve come to the conclusion that a touch screen really adds to the laptop experience. In fact since I’ve been using an iPhone and iPad I am now in the habit of touching ALL screens just to see if they respond or not! I had great fun in PC World seeing if the the laptops on display would respond to my delicate touch. Not many responded but the ones that did were a revelation. So many things we need to do are just better done with a touch gesture. Accessing photos was magical. So were a lot of scroll and zooming actions. Interacting with e-mail and calendars and tasks was also really intuitive. Obviously I was limited in what I could achieve on the demo machines in the store but overall having a touch screen seems like the way to go – especially for tablet junkies. The only downside is that it has to be a Windows PC. Touch screens are a glaring omission from Apple’s line-up. Will this change now that Steve Jobs has gone? I think it probably might.
Here is my fave touch screen PC from my visit to PC World – the Asus VivoBook S400CA 14-inch at only £599
I would really like my next tablet to be a Microsoft Surface loaded with Windows RT. Suddenly Microsoft’s tiled non-skeuomorphic interface looks cool compared to the endless pages of icons lined up in rows. Even the 16:9 wide-screen format looks cool compared to Apple’s old school 4:3. But the problem I have with Windows 8, and therefore the problem which Microsoft has as well, is the lack of apps in the Windows 8 App Store. When it comes to apps Windows 8 is a desert compared to Apple’s or Android’s oases.
This is a big shame because I am a prime customer for Microsoft. I run Windows 7 on my desktop and laptop and the primary tools of my trade are Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Being able to use these tools on my tablet device, even in cut down form, would be a real boon for me. Currently I have to mess about converting PowerPoint to Keynote and using a weird collection of writing apps (I’m writing this in Byword) when I am working with words alone.
The real danger for Microsoft here is that I am faced with two choices – struggle on with my mixed Apple/Windows set-up or decide to go for an all Apple ecosystem. Steve Ballmer must be hoping that not too many take the latter option. Corporate customers of course are less responsive and apart from executive toys and BYOD iOS is hardly becoming the corporate workhorse that will oust Windows. Still it’s got to be a worrying time for Microsoft. Can it get into the tablet market while there is some of it left?