Even before the release of Windows 7, laptops and desktops featuring a touch-based interface have started showing up on store shelves and online. These run Windows Vista, come with a touch-sensitive screen and perhaps a third-party add-on that provides some touch functionality. Notably, HP has a line of TouchSmart PCs, including all-in-one PCs and a cool tablet. The TouchSmart tablet recently showed up at Best Buy at a price that won’t make you feel guilty for weeks later simply for having considered buying one.
Windows 7 has built-in support for multi-touch technology, called Windows Touch. Here’s an interesting video showing Windows Touch in Windows 7 Beta, and tasks that are natural fits for touch – Windows Media Center, browsing through a library of music, videos or photographs.
I decided to wait till Windows 7 ships to buy a PC with multi-touch capabilities. It sure adds a lot more fun to computing (in a very iPhone way :), and it’s one of the more exciting new developments in computing.
If you’ve already bought a PC with multi-touch capabilities and are eager to use Windows 7 beta’s multi-touch functionality, head over to Enabling Multi-Touch in the Windows 7 Beta on the Windows blog.
Speech: The Other Breakthrough
The other development I’ve been eagerly awaiting is the PC’s built-in support for speech, to the extent that I could get rid of the keyboard and use speech as the primary interface. Not just for dictating emails or documents, but actually be able to accomplish almost anything using speech commands dictated to the computer. Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 is an impressive product from Nuance. DNS V10 Standard sells for $99.99, and the Preferred version is about $150. Although it would be great to have all this functionality (and more) included in the OS, I don’t mind the additional cost of DNS 10, given the convenience gained by using speech, and the resulting boost in productivity it promises after the initial effort of learning how to use it.
With PCs supporting quad-core processors now going for way under $1000, and (for the “Vista-is-a-resource-hog” crowd) 4 Gigs of memory selling for under 50 bucks, the firepower to support such applications certainly exists under the hood of common desktop PCs we’ll buy this year.