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Steven Sinofsky: Multi-touch drivers not available for HP Touchsmart yet

There have been a lot of questions about just how supported the multi-touch features are in Windows 7. And what do you know, the very first questions Steve Sinofsky gets in an Open Session with attendees at PDC is whether you can go out and get an HP Touchsmart and have it support multi-touch as soon as you install Windows 7.

His response:

“Touch is an interesting technology in that there are many different implementations for the actual physics of touching the screen. We’re all familiar ATM machines? Those are pressure-based touch so that’s why you really can’t do drag and drop on an ATM machine because you can’t keep the pressure even as you cut across. There’s also the one you’ve seen in Surface, which is using cameras and infrared. So it’s super cool, but it requires a lot of gear. And then what the HP has is that’s one that’s sort of based on a radio grid that you cut across. There’s also one on the Dell Latitude notebook that also uses a specific kind of technology. And it’s fascinating that they all have their pros and cons of screen size, battery draw, and things like that. And the HP one is one of the ones that’s currently works with Windows 7 and also the physics of it is…[innaudible question from original questioner]…yes, it works as opposed to not working. So it currently works. The other part that’s tricky is multi-touch. The hardware is multi-touch, but there are going to be driver updates to support the multi aspect of it. So most them work super well with single touch. The existing ones will work with single touch Windows 7, but obviously the drivers will need to be updated because they didn’t know to have to expect to send up the stack multi-touch interface.”

His answer appears to be, in a word, “No.”

Yes, you can get an HP Touchsmart today and install the Windows 7 pre-beta on it and you’ll get touch. You might even get some HP-custom multi-touch. But you won’t get the multi-touch from Windows 7. Why? Because there aren’t drivers yet.

So for us Tablet and touch owners, Windows 7 multi-touch is not here yet and like the release of Vista the issue is, well, uh, drivers. Now, like Sinofsky said, the problem is that the OEMs haven’t had a chance to write and test the drivers. I guess that kind of makes sense, because Microsoft has been so secretive of what’s going to be in Windows 7. Yes, Microsoft announced multi-touch support in Window 7 this summer, but that wasn’t enough time.

I wish the question had been asked: How long is it going to take before we see Windows 7 multi-touch drivers? I imagine the answer is that it’ll depend on the OEMs, but it sure would have been nice if this had all worked out of the box.

What we have right now is Windows 7 that supports multi-touch that we can’t use. Besides showing off some demoes on stage, what was the point for even saying that Windows 7 currently supports multi-touch? Yeah, technically it does. (Microsoft must have some drivers after all that it used on stage.) But effectively for us, it doesn’t.

I wish Microsoft was much clearer about this. It all could have been said in one sentence: There are no drivers for multi-touch support in Windows 7 at this time.

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