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To touch or not to touch

Should your next computer have a touch screen?

Kushan Mitra | Print Edition: April 4, 2010

Windows 7, the latest iteration of Microsoft's pervasive operating system, is a much improved piece of kit. One trick up its sleeve that only a few computers have taken advantage of until now is its superb multi-touch abilities. However, there are newer devices coming out later this year that will take advantage of multi-touch. So, should your next computer be a touch-screen device?

If you have used Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch you might be familiar with "capacitive touch" or what is commonly called "multi-touch". This allows you to use more than one finger on the touch surface at any given point of time, offering a more natural motion that gives you the liberty to stretch, zoom and rotate on your computer screen by just using your fingers.

  • Touch-screen devices are expensive but prices are falling and more devices will be launched soon.
  • There are few software tools today but more touch programmes are coming, especially in education.
  • A problem with touch devices is that you always need to be within an arm's length of the screen.
  • Apple does not have a touch desktop; instead all iMac's ship with the multi-touch "Magic Mouse".
The only issue with such devices today is a lack of software using these multi-touch abilities. Microsoft throws in something called the "Surface Pack", which includes "Surface Globe" (Earth viewing software) and "Surface Collage" (akin to a soft-board). Hardware manufacturers also throw in some multi-touch software tools. However, later this year, software developers, especially in educational software, will be releasing touch tools. This will make touch devices an interesting option in households with young children.

Touch devices are getting cheaper though every touch-screen device on the market today is an "all-inone" machine, where the computer is behind the screen. It might be a while before one sees assembled touchscreen machines. HP's Touch Smart costs a whopping Rs 90,000. But, with Lenovo announcing the C315 (at least in US) at a modest $649 (Rs 30,000), such devices will become more mainstream though they will always attract a premium.

SOME OPTIONS

HP TOUCHSMART 600

  • The big daddy of touch-screen devices and, currently, the only premium touch screen available.
  • Price: Rs 89,950+taxes

ASUS EeeTop ET1602

  • Not the best touch screen and puny performance, given the price. Also runs Windows XP.
  • Price: Rs 44,000+taxes

Lenovo C315*

  • It will give consumers an affordable entry point to touch screens.
  • *Yet to be launched in India, US price: $649

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