Several sources this week have reported on Windows 7 and its multi-touch features. Windows 7 will be the successor to Vista and no one is sure when it will come out; Microsoft dates can be slippery. That said I am a huge geek when it comes to new technology. Multi-touch is already a reality, but several years ago it belonged to the realm of Science Fiction and there is no denying that it is very cool. Playing with the Apple iTouch/iPhone for the first time is awesome as long as it’s not in the Apple store. Those things can get pretty nasty looking with Ebola boogers smeared all over them.
The multi-touch move seems to be in line with a lot of what Microsoft is doing lately. Someone else is doing it (Apple), so we have to also, but why? I’m not saying Microsoft should not be doing it, and lots of other companies are jumping on the multi-touch bandwagon too, but are we really going to be smearing our fingers all over laptop screens in the future? As a designer and programmer I am always cringing when people touch my screen. I think the multi-touch works for the iPhone and iTouch because of the target market and type of usage they receive but I still find myself preferring a tactile keyboard. I will be purchasing a smart phone within the next 6 months, and I have yet to decide whether I will go with the slick iPhone, or a more practical Blackberry. Ideally I would like a combo of both a multi-touch and a tactile keypad.
That’s not to say I can’t think of many cool uses for multi-touch technology and I’m sure Windows 7 will help facilitate this eventually. I would love to have an LCD coffee table with a durable high gloss finish where you could spread out digital photos, play with digital liquid lava, or even play some games while friends are over (Think real time strategies). What I think will be marketed first is what we are seeing in this early video, which is probably not really where multi-touch will excel.
Obviously there is huge potential but traditional computing will not need multi-touch and maybe even hinder it. The mouse and electronic pen are still a force to be reckoned with. I think we will use multi-touch in ways we can’t even imagine right now, but I also think the mouse will be around for a long time. Microsoft has to be careful with how they push this. Multi-touch is new and for the most part it is fun and cool, but Microsoft is not known for fun and cool, they are known for getting the job done. Vista tried to be something it wasn’t, and in the end it got a new interface that annoyed people and an OS that didn’t work with a lot of peripherals out there. Multi-touch is a feature I want to see in Windows 7, but it’s not something that I want to be a default design feature of the entire UI and I hope it is not the main focus. I really hope Windows 7 will be a rock solid OS that really does innovate, we don’t want another Vista.