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Input Devices Handhelds Portables

'Gorilla Arm' Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over 610

Hugh Pickens writes "With Windows 8, Microsoft has made a billion-dollar gamble that personal computing is taking a new direction and that new direction is touch, says David Pogue. It's efficient on a touchscreen tablet. But Microsoft expects us to run Windows 8 on our tens of millions of everyday PCs. Although touch has been incredibly successful on our phones, tablets, airport kiosks and cash machines, Pogue says touch will never take over on PCs. The reason? Gorilla Arms. There are three big differences between tablet screens and a PC's screen: angle, distance and time interval. The problem is 'the tingling ache that [comes] from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm.' Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s but Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will be so attractive that we won't mind touching our PC screens, at least until the PC concept fades away entirely. 'My belief is that touch screens make sense on mobile computers but not on stationary ones,' concludes Pogue. 'Microsoft is making a gigantic bet that I'm wrong.'"
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'Gorilla Arm' Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over

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  • by Jeremiah Cornelius ( 137 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:23AM (#42494797) Homepage Journal

    It doesn't need assistance from physiology. ;-)

  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:29AM (#42494833)

    So what large vertical desktop displays even have touch screens? Sounds like they are talking about hardware that shows absolutely no sign of happening.

  • by Naatach ( 574111 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:29AM (#42494837)
    Since you're on Slashdot, like me, you have no life and you probably eat lunch sitting at your desk with crap on your hands. I have no need to smear all that over my monitor. With tablets and phones, it's ok because you can grab a corner of your shirt and clean it off. I'm not going to flash my monitor to wipe off my burger grease.
  • Re:Pain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr0bvious ( 968303 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:37AM (#42494867)

    Why must we consider our input devices to be mutually exclusive? We didn't ditch the keyboard with the introduction of the mouse...

    On the desktop I can see a touch screen complimenting my current setup - it won't replace my keyboard and mouse any time soon but I would certainly get some use along side them.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:37AM (#42494877)

    I already get irate if someone feels the need to molest my screen with his greasy, grubby paws. Now these imbeciles should have an excuse for it? No way.

    Seriously, that's more a reason to avoid touch screens at all cost more than gorilla arm syndrome could.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:52AM (#42494951)

    Except that Windows 8 has largely broken the existing interface.

    I just bought a Windows 8 laptop without a touchscreen. Regardless of what the mindless hoards think, I realize that a touchscreen doesn't add to the usability of the computer for the tasks I wish to do. (FYI, I spent almost a decade designing and developing Point-Of-Sale software for touchscreen computers, so I have plenty of experience with them.)

    It took only a few hours to realize that Windows 8 couldn't make up its mind about whether my gestures were intended to be a minor action (moving the pointer over an inch to press a button) or a new, major action (switching to the previous application). Before the end of the day, I wiped Win8 off of the machine and installed Win7. I won't "upgrade" unless and until Microsoft makes it reasonable to turn off the Metro interface.

    For the time being, I'm more or less stuck running some version of Windows. If Microsoft continues to force its users to use "The Interface Formerly Known As Metro", I will either stick with Win7. If that becomes impractical, I'll switch to Linux.

  • Re:Pain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jkrise ( 535370 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @09:54AM (#42494963) Journal

    While windows 8 is a mistake from user interface, it is only because it takes away choice. a simple service pack could easily fix those issues.

    The correct approach would've been to make the Metro as an option; not a compulsory interface. A simple Service Pack will not fix the issues which MS has created.

    MS created Bob, was it cured / rectified with a Service Pack?

    MS imposed the 'ribbon' interface on Office users; many cringed and complained; but had to bite the bullet and be less productive.

    If users are FORCED to use the Metro shit, and Developers build apps that are ONLY Metro enabled, then how can a Service Pack cure that ailment? In many situations, such as typing a post on Slashdot, the on-screen touch keyboard is no substitute for the real $1 thing that is attached to the PC. So the problem is too big and profound to be cured by a Service Pack. And seeing as Ballmer is stubborn in imposing this silliness and cutting off traditional interfaces; this will be the end of Windows totally in many situations.

    Nobody is interested in making the hardware for Linux devices, but Google's Chrome-books are already making a big impact. The iPad and Android tablets have taken over the higher and lower ends of the touch based tablets market. MS has been driven out of the touch paradigm, and making it compulsory on the desktop will kill the desktop rather than create motivation for developers to build for the new interface that nobody wants on a desktop.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:08AM (#42495041) Homepage

    Microsoft simply has no idea what its customers want or need. Worse, they keep adapting what they have instead of building something entirely new. Please spare me the nonsense that one or another version of Windows was completely re-written from scratch. That's bullshit and we all know it. Even if it was re-written from scratch, it still does everything the same way it has for quite a long time with loads and loads of backward compatibility mucking things up and slowing things down.

    And Microsoft still thinks it all about the user interface? Bright colors and all that? The problems are so complex it would be impossible for anyone to list them all here. But the failings are many but perhaps just a few in category: Trust, (perception of) Stability, Security, (broken new tech) Standards compliance, Exclusion of other devices and software, User Interface, Is unaware of customer needs. There could probably be a few other broad categories, but it's not hard to think of examples for each of the ones I thought of on the fly.

    This is more than Microsoft can address with the new release of any one product. They are at a point at which they need to re-invent themselves. In my opinion, the only thing they have consistently done right is XBox but they keep making that slightly worse over time as they are making it all look, feel and act like Windows 8 as well. And surprise-surprise! They made an Android app to work with XBox Live! Crazy right?

    It's past time for Microsoft to start over. They definitely need to dump Win32 and all that. Do it right instead of piling on thing after thing after thing for decades. Start with a hypervisor and build your new platform there and let things intermingle with Windows 7 running in another VM. DUMP DRIVE LETTERS for god's sake. Multiple file system roots is ridiculous and stupid. And please. No More backslashes!! We know why you did it. It wasn't good then and it's bad now. And it's not because I'm a Linux user I say this, it's because I support Windows all day long and I can NEVER get people to understand the difference between a backslash and a slash! And these people have been using their computers for decades. It's a failure. So when you make things all new again, don't forget to go to slashes.

    Well there I go... ranting. Microsoft is simply failing and everyone else is excited about and using other things. They just don't know how to re-invest their billions and billions of dollars into themselves any longer.

  • Re:Pain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:13AM (#42495081)

    No you can't.

    Ribbon takes a layout which can fit a wide range of tools, and shrinks the total usable space, in the interest of - for some mysterious reason - drawing attention to the most common set of features which everyone uses, despite the fact that everyone already used them.

    It does this at the cost of being able to keep multiple features on screen at once - with Ribbon I can't have styling and fonts, drawing, and reviewing all on screen at the same time whereas in Office 2003 I could and it worked perfectly well.

    Instead with Ribbon I have to click between multiple tabs to reach the same features, all for the benefit of making - again - features I already knew existed and could easily access, bigger and more prominent.

    This is a user-interface revamp so big you can make money selling products that give the old functionality back.

    How does data showing the rates of use for various features winds up with the conclusion that you should less commonly used features even harder to access I will never know. Why not just delete them from your damn product if you think they're that unimportant? What they managed to do instead was sit down and say "I think our business users are not the core demographic which does productive work".

  • by johnlcallaway ( 165670 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:14AM (#42495087)
    It's called using a 'mouse' and 'keyboard'. I touch both of them and the way I touch and move them controls what is on the screen. I need to use the screen on my tablet and phone because I'm not at my desk. What works well on the desktop doesn't work on the phone, it needed different input techniques. That doesn't mean those techniques work well on the desktop.

    Now .. would I like a touch screen on my desktop? A little, most mouse-type devices are limited in movement to do things like rotate, although with the appropriate software it's possible, just not as intuitive. Most of screen manipulation is simply clicking, double/long clicking, or moving and mice cal already do that. They can also be used to zoom and swipe with the appropriate software. You can't right click a touch screen, although long clicking kinda sorta is the same thing I guess. Definitely can't middle click. It would be handy for media manipulation at times. But how is that going to work on my 72" HDTV??? I need the capability for both to use when I need to.

    And explain to me why you decided that bigger icons on my desktop were a good idea, especially since most of the time I have these things you call 'windows' up and can't really see any of them when they are active so what's the purpose?? I have dual monitors, and most of the time I have windows open on both and most of my desktop is hidden. I'm doing this thing called 'work'. The little pop-up notifications that pop-up then fade away work just fine and are much more useful.

    Windows 8 is not on my list of upgrades. If you want me to upgrade, give me something that is a reason to upgrade, like runs faster. I don't care about boot or standby times, my PC is on 24x7 and I rarely reboot. In fact, the only time I reboot is when you need to install updates because you haven't figured out how to do that without rebooting, like UNIX has done for decades you idiots.
  • If large vertical touchscreens are really usable for sustained periods of time, and if they really add something of substantial value to mouse point-and-click GUI's, I find it very, very hard to believe they wouldn't have already gained traction.

    all you need to know is that large touch overlays can easily be more expensive than the display itself, at least as an add-on product. even if they have substantial utility, people won't buy it if it costs too much. Indeed, they do have substantial utility, but the cost benefit ratio is shit compared to a three dollar mouse.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:22AM (#42495137)
    Mount the screen at an angle. Recess it. Problem solved. Dell S2340T 23" Multi-Touch Monitor [dell.com]
  • Re:Pain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dindi ( 78034 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:36AM (#42495213)

    "Why do we consider the monitor vertical to be the only way to position a monitor?"

    Because while sitting at a desk it is extremely not ergonomic to be staring down to your keyboard or anything flat on your desk. That is why your monitors (should be) eye level, vertical and facing you.

    Also that is why laptops are commonly complemented with external screens (also screen real estate), stands (so they cool better and they get into your eye-level zone) and external devices ( because a lot of laptops come with a crappy keyboard and a tiny touch pad - well, not MacBooks, but still I am typing on one with an external keyboard, 1080p screen and a touchpad )..

    Tablets are great when you are on your sofa, lying down on the grass in the garden or in the hammock. Hey, even the toilet or the bus. As soon as you have to type long mail or document or write code: you are screwed with a virtual keyboard.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:56AM (#42495359)

    Microsoft simply has no idea what its customers want or need.

    I don't think this is true. I think MS has heard plenty of what customers want or need. I don't think they care in the case of Windows 8. Many here think that MS is completely inept but I think MS has a strategy. The way I see it most consumers don't upgrade Windows until they replace their PCs. A few of them actually purchase a new OS but I don't think most consumers really do that.

    What is plaguing MS and the computer industry these days is that people simply are not replacing their PCs as often as did in the past. Part of the cause is that their older PCs work fine for most tasks; upgrading new hardware is not going to give most people a noticeable boost when they are surfing the internet. Part of the cause is that smart phones and tablets are starting to supplement a consumer's need for computing. Since most consumers really need basic functionality like Facebook, email, etc, most are turning to more mobile devices to supplement what they have already. I think MS understands this trend; the problem is that their competitors had products in the market for this need while MS fumbled around for years on their lackluster offerings.

    So realizing that they would be very late to the game when it came to changing their mobile devices, my contention is that MS isn't incompetent; they are just being evil. They know that if they had designed a new separate mobile OS (like iOS or Android), they could not have competed. They do offer some differentiation but like their Zune product (and their WP7), it may not translate to wide adoption. So rather than have their tablet/mobile UI compete on its own merits, they decided that they will force the new UI on consumers so they will have no choice. Later when these consumers buy tablets, they will already be familiar with Metro/Modern.

  • by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @10:57AM (#42495371)

    It's past time for Microsoft to start over. They definitely need to dump Win32 and all that. Do it right instead of piling on thing after thing after thing for decades.

    The only problem is that "Win32 and all that" is exactly what keeps people at using Ms Windows. It's less now for ordinary people because they spend most time on the web playing flash games and on Facebook. But at work they still need to be able to run their Win32 software.

  • Re:Pain (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:07AM (#42495437)

    How does data showing the rates of use for various features winds up with the conclusion that you should less commonly used features even harder to access I will never know.

    I agree - to show how useless the statistics are, consider the huge paste button, and the smaller cut and copy ones. Why is Paste so much bigger? Its because the statistics show that paste is used twice as often as copy, and twice as often as cut. Therefore its twice as important.....

    I also hate that the Print button is hidden away off the ribbon, its a poorly designed interface. However, consider the bright spot in all this - Microsoft can change it, and then sell you another new version of Office! Another win for Microsoft...

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:21AM (#42495545) Homepage Journal

    I remember blackboards. Teacher would stand in front of the blackboard, spend maybe thirty seconds scribbling something, wipe her hands, then wander around the room for two or three minutes, while blathering away on the importance of what she just wrote. Then, she would return to the blackboard, blather for another minute and a half, turn around, and write something new up there. Rinse and repeat for maybe 30 minutes, then sit at her desk, read off an assignment to the class, do something obscure in her books, and the bell would ring to signal that it was time to go to another classroom.

    While there was a blackboard in every room, the teacher who spent more than fifteen minutes writing something on it was the exception, rather than the rule.

    Remember, writing something like "I will not pick my ass in class" on the blackboard a hundred times was PUNISHMENT, not a reward

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:40AM (#42495657) Homepage

    Apple only targets a small subset of novice consumer users. It does that well enough but that gets unjustifiably projected to everyone. Microsoft is not just limited to one small segment. As others have said, they even have conflicting use cases.

    Apple doesn't have to deal with any of that. They have chosen a much easier task for themselves.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:43AM (#42495681) Homepage

    Most drafting is not done at an angle inclined to give you gorilla arms. You also have a nice large drawing surface for support.

    ZERO thought has been put into the ergonomics of touch devices for real work as they aren't thought of as work tools by the people that actually make them (as opposed to fanboys).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:48AM (#42495721)

    That isn't as bad as the idiocy that is case sensitive filenames in *NIX based operating systems. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to have multiple files with identical names but different cases should be shot.

  • by JMJimmy ( 2036122 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @11:50AM (#42495727)

    It's not accurate. It's that Microsoft blindly follows metrics and doesn't care that it makes assumptions about them. I had a conversation with the UX designer of Windows 7 and he explained some of the decisions that went into Windows 8...

    Full Screen as an example. The metrics told them that users spent 95% of their time "in full screen". By this I think he meant maximized. This is why metro apps are full screen. This seemingly minor distinction between maximized and full screen apparently means nothing to Microsoft, but has a lot of implications for the user.

    Maximized you have access to a fair amount of information and control:
      - Clock
      - Start menu
      - System tray icons (volume control, network status, battery state, IM messages, etc)
      - Start bar (program state info [think Skype or file transfer progress], program switching control without the need to touch the keyboard, etc)
      - Minimize/Exit control
      - Desktop peek/minimize all

    Full screen gives you the benefit of...
      - maximized space for apps?

    And what about the remaining 5% of the time?

    I could go on but it's really pointless. Metro isn't about touch, it isn't about making more money on the next version of Windows. It's about apps. Microsoft wants a successful app store so that they get a piece of every software sale on their platform. They make apps "easier" to use (or access) than desktop "programs" and try to force people to convert. The more difficult they make it for open source software, the easier they make it to buy apps, the more money they will make without having to put in expensive hours developing a product.

  • by kkwst2 ( 992504 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @12:04PM (#42495813)

    I'm not an Apple fan but I don't agree that Apple only targets novice users. Maybe you can make that case for iOS devices, but not OSX computers. There are plenty of advanced and technical users. I know plenty of engineers and techies who prefer Macs. I prefer Windows because that is what I grew up with and many of my computational modeling programs only work on Linux and Windows. But to suggest that only novices use Macs is silly.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @12:32PM (#42496033)

    On the contrary – apple's biggest market share gain of recent times was getting techies who wanted a good solid UNIX with a UI that works, and a bunch of useful commercial apps to adopt their platform.

  • by ByteSlicer ( 735276 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @12:40PM (#42496067)

    Lol. I've even written (simple) VMs.

    My point is: you have to do *some* work from the VM, what else is the point of having one. And whatever data is needed in there is at risk.

    Most of the home users don't have the desire or the knowledge to keep their "stuff" separate. They just want it to work. If they find a setting to share their whole system disk with the VM, they will use it, because it makes things easier.

    Don't browse or do e-mail in the VM? Good luck keeping users from opening trojan attachments that compromise the "real" OS and steal/corrupt their data. Most browsers already use VM-like sandboxing and still get compromised.

  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:10PM (#42496321)

    "It doesn't need assistance from physiology. ;-)"

    Indeed. Also, over 30 years now am I fighting with my human arms to hit people's arms away from my monitor who want to touch my screen to 'show me' what they mean with their fatty fingers.

    I don't want somebody to touch my PC screen and I'm sure not touching it myself.
    Cleaning those damn tablets 20 times a day is bothersome enough.

  • by Javagator ( 679604 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:23PM (#42496401)
    Microsoft has an internal policy of deliberately making bad versions of Windows to increase sales

    You make it sound like Windows 8 is a stroke of marketing genius instead of a case of user interface design stupidity. I’ll put my money on stupidity.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:24PM (#42496415)

    There's actually quite a market for tablets, in case you haven't noticed.

    That's a different market. Tablets are for content consumers. Mice and keyboards are for content producers.

    Most of the people I see with tablets use them to read or view content, with only occasional interaction. When they start doing significant input, they invariably adapt some sort of keyboard/mouse combination to the tablet. With varying degrees of success.

    The people doing significant content creation don't put up with mini keyboards and cheap track pads happily. There's still quite a market for the old IBM clicky keyboards among this group for a reason.

  • Sorry for the double reply, but I'm getting really annoyed by people who make the distinction between "apps" and "programs". There's no difference at all.

    Remember Java Applets? They were smaller programs (typically, because bandwidth wasn't / isn't as plentiful as drive space), I called mine 'Java Apps' for short vs Java Programs or 'Enterprise Java Solutions', for... short... in Java terms. One could argue that "Apps" could be a shortened form of "Web Apps", a term I used long before Apple's "App Store" was created. "Web Apps" is shortened form (in my case) of "Java Web Site Applets" -- Applet itself inferring a smaller application, in the same sense that cigarette does in relation to cigar. Thus depending on who you're conversing with (in this case, me) "apps" and "programs" would mean different things -- The latter are typically smaller / less resource intensive than full applications, in my vernacular.

    Language changes over time. I think it would be understandable if the commonly understood term for "app" ends up meaning a typically lighter-weight version of a program due to apps typically running in environments with less resources -- gee, just like the damned Applet, or "app" for short, eh? -- It's too bad Sun dropped the ball and didn't make Java Applets use a lean mean VM to save us from the cluster fsck that is HTML(5) + JS or Flash web apps.

    I understand your frustration. We all know what you mean. It's just like when folks say "Our security got hacked by a hacker", but they mean their security was cracked by a cracker, who may or may not be a hacker... Life's too short to be "getting really annoyed" at anything. Besides all of that is, just like, your opinion, man.

  • by nzac ( 1822298 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @01:54PM (#42496723)

    The "Broken Window Fallacy" is about the overall economy, having windows to repair is good for the window repairer.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @02:37PM (#42497047) Homepage

    If only they appreciated the fact that users can use different interfaces for different purposes. If Microsoft had their way, motocycles would have steering wheels just to make the user interfaces consistent... good idea or really bad idea?

    Metro "might" be a good UI for phones and handheld tablets. I say "might" because I personally don't care for it. I find it to be too simplistic and not flexible enough... but I'm a techy geek and not a good sample of what the public might appreciate. Also, my vision is excellent. I love detail. I can't speak for the rather large percentage of the population who have vision problems.

    But Metro is NOT good for the desktop. It's just not.

  • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Sunday January 06, 2013 @05:02PM (#42498181)

    Case sensitivity is fine. But SPACES in filenames are another matter completely.

    How many otherwise simple shell scripts and the like have either broken or end up being twice as long due when you have to account for spaces in filenames...

The first Rotarian was the first man to call John the Baptist "Jack." -- H.L. Mencken