The enthusiasm for multi-touch

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Mini Microsoft dropped a little line that I just have to comment about. The quote:

Figure a way to make a Surface the size of a laptop screen and you know I’ll buy one.”

Well, Mini, there is a way to do this and I’m crossing all my fingers and toes that Microsoft, the OEMs, and the ISVs will work together to make sure this happens. I’m not holding my breath though. That’s a bit too risky 🙂

Here’s the deal: Mutli-touch or dual touch or whatever touch is the state of the art right now. We’re at the point where compelling touch devices are practical and will be making their way into the marketplace. I’m not talking simply about resistive touch like you’ve seen in previous generations of Pocket PCs and the like. There’s now capacitive touch, which some Tablet PCs have (such as the Motion LE1700WT) and most notably is in the iPhone. It gives the sensitivity and durability that touch needs

Now currently there are no multi-touch Tablets or UMPCs, although at this past year’s Microsoft hardware event, Microsoft showed off a prototype two-touch point driver. My concern is that this feature will be too late if it ever arrives. The market is ready for it now and I see no indication it’s in the pipeline. You’d think if it were someone would be spreading the word to developers like myself. I’ve heard nothing.

Anyway, I have greater hope that someone will leapfrog ahead and release a multi-touch device. I’m talking about something akin to this display from Sharp that essentially embeds a camera in the display that can “see” your fingers. This is similar to Microsoft’s Surface approach but more compact. It can potentially all be built into a handheld computer. That a huge break through in my book and would give Mini what he wants and I think what many people want.

So is it time to hold my breath for this? Nope. Minimally it’s going to take a few years to see this technology make it’s way out of the research labs. But that doesn’t mean that Microsoft and others shouldn’t be gearing up for it. The Microsoft Surface computer as it sits now is the prototype hardware. Microsoft can open it up to developers on its campus and at events–creating an API that makes sense for the multi-touch world that’s going to happen. When the portable hardware is ready, the marketplace will be too.

Until then my suggestion for developers is get an iPhone and learn all you can from it.