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Steve Jobs Was Wrong About Touchscreen Laptops 526

Posted by timothy
from the too-soon? dept.
theodp writes "Don't believe everything Steve Jobs and Tim Cook tell you, advises The Verge's Sean Hollister. Gunshy of touchscreen laptops after hearing the two Apple CEOs dismiss the technology (Jobs: 'Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical.' Cook: 'You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user.'), Hollister was surprised to discover that Windows 8 touchscreen laptops actually don't suck and that the dreaded 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' did not materialize. 'The more I've used Windows 8, despite its faults, the more I've become convinced that touchscreens are the future — even vertical ones,' writes Hollister. 'We've been looking at this all wrong. A touchscreen isn't a replacement for a keyboard or mouse, it's a complement.' Echoing a prediction from Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood that 'it is only a matter of time before all laptops must be touch laptops,' Hollister wouldn't be surprised at all if Apple eventually embraces-and-extends the tech: 'Microsoft might have validated the idea, but now Apple has another chance to swoop in, perfecting and popularizing the very interface that it strategically ridiculed just two years ago. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, how many iPad minis come with sandpaper for filing fingers down?'"
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Steve Jobs Was Wrong About Touchscreen Laptops

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 01, 2012 @11:18PM (#42158727)

    There's a ton of stuff that's basically useless in a non-touch environment (Launchpad, I'm looking at you). It's obvious Apple is planning for it eventually.

  • Color me skeptical (Score:3, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @11:26PM (#42158769) Homepage

    I don't even see the mouse as complementing the keyboard. The lack of accelerator keys on web sites/browsers is frustrating, the inability to alt-tab out of the various VMs and VNCs is frustrating. Touch is going in the wrong direction.

    Here's the direction computers should be going in: Intelligent User Interfaces. Computers should guess the next noun/object or verb/action and list them in descending likelihood -- kind of like IntelliSense. Quick keyboard commands 1-9 or first-letter/auto-complete select out of the prioritized list. We're so far away from that that file selector dialogs don't even default -- let alone remember to! -- sort reverse chronological. (Nor do they remember last directory, cross-application)

    OK, mouse is good for panning 2D (Google Maps), and zooming and sliders. Maybe there's something touch is better at than both mouse and keyboard, but I don't know what that might be.

    First priority is to fix keyboard UI.

  • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bob&hotmail,com> on Saturday December 01, 2012 @11:57PM (#42158943) Journal

    Partly true. The original Transformer sold (and still sells AFAIK) at a rate of about 400,000 units a month. That doesn't compare with the nearly 1,000,000 Nexus 7 units a month Asus are selling.

    It's not bad compared to other manufacturers though, or even the PC market, which is collapsing with a 21% fall in sales.

    There was even a rare story about Asus [slashdot.org] here!

  • by linuxtelephony (141049) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @12:15AM (#42159033) Homepage

    Anyone remember the Vadem Clio/Sharp TriPad? I do. For all it's clunkiness, if it wouldn't had such a problem with audio quality that would have been my first "tablet" (back in 2000 or 2001). [Oblig. wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vadem_Clio [wikipedia.org] ] The whine during media playback killed it for me, and I wasn't willing to settle for the price so I ended up returning it. Other than that, and WinCE, it was a very useful device.

    I have had the ASuS TF101 plus keyboard now for about a year and I still like it, even if my daughter has taken it over. Plus how many people run the iPad in landscape/vertical using a special case as a stand? I know I do. I can touch type pretty quick on it too (though I prefer it more of a slant then strictly vertical, probably about 60 degrees up from the table). And don't forget about the Lenovo S10-3t convertible? It was the first "laptop" with a touch screen that I've used, and even though the 1024x600 display kills the usability IMO, I still have a hard time putting it up on eBay because I find the touch screen form factor useful in a pinch.

    The bottom line is the touch screen laptop is a very usable configuration and I'm surprised it's taken this long to see more of them. I think an almost perfect machine would be something like a macbook air (either 11 or 13 inch), with a quad core i7 (or comparable), 16 gb of RAM, an iPad 3 retina display w/touch for the display, a detachable keyboard (ala Transformer) or possibly rotating keyboard (Vadem Clio, Lenovo Yoga). It should also have 5+ hours of battery life and not get uncomfortably hot. I don't ask for much. :)

  • by tannhaus (152710) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @12:40AM (#42159163) Homepage Journal

    I have one of the Gateway 6971 all-in-ones. I paid the $15 or whatever to get the Windows 8 upgrade. My computer before this one was a 24 inch iMac I'd had for 5 years. I have to say that I don't regret the change at all. When it comes to reading a website, I'm more likely to reach up and scroll than even use the scroll wheel on the mouse. When I'm playing music or watching videos, I don't have to be sitting at my computer desk. All I have to be able to do is touch the screen. The article is right. It complements the mouse and keyboard and allows for more relaxed use of the computer.

  • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bmo (77928) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:09AM (#42159309)

    > which was also met with much criticism when it was introduced in a world of keyboard-centric software.

    You know, I lived through that era and the era before that (the one where there were no microcomputers) and i knew of nobody who criticized the mouse.

    I *did* know a lot of people who criticized the Macintosh for lacking a command line altogether, though, and the Lisa for being the expensive and slow machine it was, with rectangular pixels and the really weird floppies. I think you're confusing things. (Yes, the Lisa was slow. We had a later one in an office with the 3.5 inch floppies that ran our COGO program. You started it up and went to go make coffee. When you had coffee all set up, the machine was booted).

    > It's not poking at the screen all day: it's poking at the screen where it makes sense and where/when touch is more convenient.

    I am not some kid who has only known one kind of computer type through my life. My first experience with a computer was sitting at a paper TTY at the University of RI playing with my dad's homework running on the IBM 370. I have seen computers large and small and input methods from card stacks to the most frou-frou GUI that the industry has seen. I have farted around with 8 since the Dev Preview, within hours of its release. It's *not* convenient to be reaching up to touch the screen when you're sitting at a desk. It simply isn't. It's klunky.

    As the size and distance of the screen and verticality increases, the klunkier it becomes. Orientation means something. Back before the days of CAD, drawing boards were canted at around 20-45 degrees. Nobody draws on a vertical surface. Touching a vertical surface to make sweeping gestures (akin to drawing) is a pain in the ass. Imagine an E size screen, vertically in front of you (because displays have been getting larger over time, not smaller) and you're required to touch the upper right or upper left or top part of the screen as 8 requires you to do so in metro mode.

    Don't BS me.

    Touch has its place. Trying to shoehorn it onto the desktop and laptop is one of the most misguided things I've ever seen, and then to call people who have tried it and criticize it based on their direct experience as "uninformed" at the very least, well, I have not enough middle fingers.

    --
    BMO

  • I own a Surface (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @01:42AM (#42159439) Homepage Journal

    Through my work, I get almost every tablet/thingy that comes out. I got the Surface RT the day it came out because of this, and have been using it since as my replacement for my Nexus 7, eee Netbook (ubuntu), and in tandem with iPad mini.

    I see all this shit on Slashdot about how much W8 sucks, and it's true, for desktop. If you took the "desktop" mode of W8, and put JUST THAT on desktop with a start menu, then it's solid (just a win7 upgrade). If you take W8 Metro (or whatever it's called now) and use JUST THAT, it's about 80% of what you want on a tablet. I say 80% because the gestures, while powerful, are really unintuitive.

    As it is, I have to say, as someone who actually USES the Surface, it's a nice device, and Metro is actually rather pleasant to look at (yes, there's no apps for it). In addition, the gestures are nice, if you learn them. And, in addition to all of that, having a "desktop" mode on the tablet (the keyboard includes a trackpad) is also nice, although it feels disconnected. I think Microsoft hasn't gotten it perfect, but I think they are on the right track.

    As a side note, I don't know why there's so many pro MS articles on Slashdot lately..

  • by Zibodiz (2160038) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @02:03AM (#42159523)
    This. I have Win8 on my Fujitsu T5010, and love touch scrolling with it. So much more natural. I've touched my office monitor and my wife's laptop screen a couple times now without thinking. I love having a convertible laptop/stylus/touch PC (the T5010 has a 'dual digitizer'; the active stylus digitizer is awesome for my comics, but the touchscreen is better for games/surfing/reading), and I'm never switching back to an ordinary laptop.
    Oh, and by the way, I'm a web developer who has written thousands of lines of code on a convertible tablet pc. That's what the keyboard is for.
  • Lenovo Yoga (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jimmyhat3939 (931746) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @02:07AM (#42159541) Homepage

    I got one of these for work the first day they came out. Here's how I use it:

    * At the office, I use it like a traditional Windows laptop, running virtual machines and whatnot for development.
    * On the train, I turn it into a tablet and read books, play games, read the newspaper and magazines. There's a great PDF reader and a Kindle app. Also, I use it in a singing group I belong to for my sheet music.

    In short, it's a laptop plus an iPad.

    Also, I've had zero problems with smudging on the screen. I've had the device for over a month and have never cleaned the screen. Maybe I'm just super clean? I keep it in a soft case made for a Mac Air, so maybe sliding it in and out of that case cleans it off.

  • by tibit (1762298) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @02:45AM (#42159653)

    I've just installed Win 8 on a VM, and it doesn't boot any faster than Win 7, even after repeated boots. YMMV, of course.

    The various gestures are a pain to execute if the real screen extends past what Win 8 imagines the screen to be -- namely the VM's window. I'd go as far as calling Metro interface's mouse gestures useless on a windowed VM because of that. For the desktop mode, the number of applications people typically use is very small anyway, so you might as well throw the common shortcuts on the desktop and be done. For other things, keyboard shortcuts are OK.

    Win 8 seems rather unpolished. The settings are haphazardly scattered between the Settings App and Control panel. I don't mind the apps, they look nice and fluid, but they won't even let me have their own kool-aid if I have to go to desktop mode just to do the basics. I was expecting that every application that came with Windows would be ported to Metro. That MS hasn't done that pretty much dismisses the whole Metro exercise in my mind. Fucking stick to it or go home, MS, mmkay?

  • laptop woes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by unixisc (2429386) on Sunday December 02, 2012 @05:38AM (#42160145)

    I don't see an advantage of this to normal laptops. Only possible advantage over a tablet - you can use a real keyboard as opposed to the virtual one that appears on the screen, which may be more comfortable to type, but not if it's a laptop form factor.

    Only thing - in more recent laptops, I've seen the touchpad come in the way of typing, and unlike previous laptop models, the stupid thing can't even be disabled, despite forum hunts. Sticking a mouse in an USB port? Nothing. No PS/2 ports, so I can't stick a PS/2 mouse in it, even if I had one. I got 5 of these in the office, and everybody complains how typing is a pain since the cursor automatically moves when the palm accidentally touches the touchpad. Nothing that I do will disable them. Previous models would have a separate switch to disable the damn thing, but not any more. Only other solution, which I haven't done, is attach an external keyboard to the other USB port i.e. have a docking strip like solution. This would be the only advantage of such a solution - get rid of trackpads altogether, and use either the touchscreen or the mouse.

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