CWmike writes: The battleground over the future of the physical keyboard is heating up with a wave of compelling tablet computers coming to market. As users of devices such as Apple's pioneering iPad progress from Web surfing and content consumption to a mix of consuming and creating content, demand for better keyboard performance will increase, writes Computerworld's Robert Mitchell. Today most iPad users who buy productivity software also reach for Apple's optional external keyboard, says the sales manager at one Apple Store, and about 40% of those who come into that store for iPad training at the Genius Bar bring in or walk out with external keyboards. Tomorrow, though, the touch screen may just be good enough. But that experience is about to get a whole lot better.Next-generation touch-screen devices will embed more haptics, or touch-based feedback, into virtual keyboards. 'A lot of companies are really getting into haptics, [using] source feedback and a sense of touch to try to replicate a keyboard on a display,' says Bruce Gant, a mechanical engineer at Product Development Technologies, which integrates touch screens into cell phones and other devices for manufacturers. 'If people really get that down and nail that experience, [virtual keyboards] could replace mechanical keyboards on laptops.' Don't tell that to Motorola, which just introduced the Atrix 4G, and dual-core 4.3-inch smartphone that docks to a laptop with, you guessed it, a physical keyboard.
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