Touch is Critical to Using Windows 8, Just Not on the Desktop

Among the people I know who have installed Windows 8 on their desktops, 100% of them use their mouse as their major navigation method. This, for an OS that is predicated on touching, swiping, tapping and pinching.

Also interesting is the fact that in each case, they are not as enthusiastic about Windows 8 on their desktop PCs (usually a second PC) as they are about touch-enabled Windows 8 tablets they have used, including the Surface RT.

This ties in with the statistic from the NPD group that only 5% of laptops sold after Windows 8 launch through December 8 had touchscreens. In other words, their owners are primarily using trackpads and mice for navigation.

An interesting article by David Goldman on CNN Money references this statistic and makes the argument that the element of touch is core to the usability of Windows 8. He notes only 30 of 700 laptops on Best Buy’s website have touchscreens and only 2 rank in the top 10 sold by the retailer.

Goldman adds;

Touch features aren’t an afterthought in Windows 8; they’re core to the entire operating system. A swipe in from the right brings up some of the software’s best new additions, like in-app search and sharing. The “options” menu is accessible with a downward swipe, navigation is done with a swipe in from the left, and a laundry list of other actions are made much simpler and intuitive with gestures. The whole Windows 8 interface just begs you to touch it.

Ok, it is understandable if desktops do not have touchscreens. I remember a usability study from years back about the impracticability of extending your arm forward for several hours in your office to touch or swipe a display while using your computer. That’s probably why my friends all go directly into desktop mode and avoid the Metro GUI during use.

By the way, they have all installed utilities to bring back the Start Button and Taskbar – a related issue that Microsoft should not turn a tin ear to, especially in the enterprise.

 

<<How to Determine the Total Cost of Ownership for Windows 8>>

 

Over and over, Goldman stresses the high learning curve of Windows 8. He mentions that Tim Cook of Microsoft reportedly scoffed at the notion of using touch on notebooks. I actually have an old Latitude running Windows 7 on which I can use a pen or touch. Geez, I just tend to use the pen and the touchpad much more than touch, but that may just be me.

Tim Cook said added in a conference call to analysts;

“You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user. You wouldn’t want to put these things together because you wind up compromising in both.”

In addition, most of the Windows 8 “convertibles” (sounds like my kid’s car seat) are quite expensive. If they are competing with tablets, they lose. If they are competing with regular notebooks, then they simply cannibalize a shrinking market.

It may be that in a few months, this article will be moot if either sales of “convertibles” pick up or if they can crash prices and make some noise in the tablet arena, attracting buyers that want the best of both worlds.

In my view, both PC makers and Microsoft should focus on tablets and smartphones as the major battlegrounds for the future and create cost-effective form factors to compete. Touch is integral to Windows 8 and touch is most effective on tablets and smartphones, not on the desktop.

Do you agree with this argument? Is your display touch-enabled? Do you use touch on your desktop running Windows 8? Share your response in the discussion below.

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