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September 8, 2008

The Future of Computing Part 2: TouchSmart PC and Windows 7


In the first part of The Future of Computing I talked about OLEDs, LEPs, and OLEs and their role in the future of personal computing.

In the second edition of The Future of Computing I want to discuss the direction of the personal computer and what that means for you.

I think there is one key word that hardware and software companies are focusing on and that word is: Integration.

The personal computer is slowly infiltrating its way into our televisions, kitchens, living rooms and our entire homes. At least, that’s what many companies are planning on.

The HP TouchSmart PC

The Future of Computing -- The HP TouchSmart PC

Has anyone besides me worked as a waiter or a waitress (obviously I’m a dude so I didn’t work as a waitress) for a restaurant chain? If you have, you may not be all that impressed with the HP TouchSmart PC because you’ve used a touch screen monitor to enter in orders.

The good thing is that the TouchSmart is going to perform quite a bit better than the typical restaurant touch screen with the Squirrel order entry system.

The TouchSmart boasts a 22 inch hi-def widescreen and an Intel Core 2 Duo Processor all in an "integrated design" (there’s that word again). This means that the 22 inch monitor is pretty much all there is to this PC. It has a little stand on the back so you can stand it up on your desk but it can just as easily be used as a Tablet PC.

HP boasts that all you need to do is "plug in the power cord and you’re ready to go". It also comes with a built in webcam, wireless keyboard and mouse, and a remote for all of you TV/Movie watchers.

(Now, before all of you Mac fanboys jump all over me and say, "But Apple has had integrated products with built-in webcams and things like that for years", I just want to let you know that I’m aware of that, and Apple has made some good products over the years.)

How is Microsoft Getting in on This?

Microsoft is always willing to jump into the fray when it comes to technology upgrades. The touch screen PC is a good idea but what’s the difference between moving objects around on the screen with your finger and moving objects around on the screen with a stylus. Not much.

But wouldn’t it be great if you could move multiple objects around the screen at the same time using both hands? Of course that would be nice and Windows Vista actually supports multipoint touch.

OK so maybe Vista is not quite the answer you were looking for but the problem hurdle when it comes to multipoint touch is actually the TouchSmart, which doesn’t support it. Here is just another example of how hardware manufacturers have not updated to accommodate Vista’s technology (I can’t wait to see what everyone has to say about that comment).

There are plans to release touch screen PCs in the future with multipoint capabilities, however.

The Future of Computing -- Windows Se7en

In the near future Microsoft will release a new operating system, as early as 2009 (by the way, just remember that any release date issued by Microsoft has to be calculated in dog years to get the actual release date), that is simply being referred to as Windows 7.

I’ll talk about Windows 7 in a future article but the one feature I want to focus on right now is the multipoint touch compatibility Windows 7 will continue to offer. Now all you ambidextrous users can change the music that’s playing with your left hand while you scroll down the page on Train Signal Training (shameless plug!) with your right hand.

The reason I mention Windows 7 is because by the time the multipoint technology is becoming a standard feature of touch screen PCs I’m willing to bet that Windows 7 will have replaced Vista. And no, I’m not contradicting any previous statements about Vista, it’s just a fact that many people are not fans of Vista and will except Windows 7 with open arms when it’s available (provided it is a little less robust than Vista).

The Tip of the Iceberg

The HP TouchSmart PC is just the beginning when it comes to "Integration". What HP and other companies are planning on is to make the personal computer more a part of your life than ever before.

What if you had 3 or 4 TouchSmarts at home that were integrated with the various appliances and electronics in the different parts of your house?

Think about it; you’d really like a plate of pizza rolls but it seems like a lot of effort to get up off of the couch and walk all the way over to the oven to preheat it. No problem, just set the preheat temperature from your TouchSmart in your living room.

Maybe you just climbed into bed and you realized you never turned the heat up on a cold winter night. Just roll over and set the thermostat using your TouchSmart. Cycle through recorded TV shows or movies from your TouchSmart and play them on your TV without ever leaving your recliner.

These are just simple examples but this is the future that tech companies are envisioning. Microsoft will even take it several steps farther with their demo of the "Home of the Future", which I will talk about in a future article.

The Present/Near Future

For the near future and really for the present the TouchSmart PC is being marketed to those of you that would like more control over your music, movies, and photos.

It really is a fairly simple way to watch movies on your TV or listen to music through your stereo system. However, why not eliminate the middle man?

For years Sony has been producing PC/TV All-In-One computers. The idea is to be able to use it as a personal computer, a television, a DVR to record TV shows, and a multimedia device to play and record music.

The line between PC and television is rapidly being blurred. PCs are becoming more integrated, more portable, and more a part of our lives. Eventually one day your entire home may be run by computers.

The TouchSmart PC is just one aspect of technology that is the springboard for more integrated technology in the future.

Think about how easy finding information has become thanks to the Internet. Not many average consumers envisioned what the Internet would do to the world.

One thing is for sure, companies are going to continue to innovate and produce more powerful and more convenient technologies. Perhaps the touch screen PC will help spark the revolution of a more technology integrated home; at least HP is hoping so.

About the Author

(A+, MCTS) has a B.S. in Business with an emphasis in Computer Information Systems and a Pre-Law minor from Eastern Illinois University. He has experience in many different areas, including construction of large scale Oracle databases, coauthoring and publishing business plans, and working as a licensed insurance agent, senior customer service representative and trainer for a major insurance company. He was also involved in nonprofit work for Big Brothers Big Sisters, designing and implementing databases and front end software using Visual Basic.