The touchscreen revolution is here. Today, everything has a screen. We expect to be able to interact with everything through touch. It is disappointing to touch a screen and have nothing happen. More than disappointing, it is a little bit surprising. Everything from children’s toys to cash machines have screens you can touch. Kitchen appliances such as ovens, refrigerators, and coffee makers have touchscreens. Interestingly, computers are lagging behind.
Companies like Apple, would disagree. While Apple is perhaps the leading manufacturer of touchscreen devices, they have intentionally stayed out of the touchscreen PC market. Philosophically, they believe that computer monitors should not be touched as they are on a different plane as the keyboard and mouse.
Microsoft, on the other hand, forced the issue with Windows 8. PC OEMs were dragged into the touchscreen revolution kicking and screaming, as there was no indication that the public wanted touchscreens in their computers. And adding the tech would drive up prices. But since that time, prices have fallen dramatically. Adding a touch panel to a PC is no more expensive than including a high-res monitor without touch. It is now just a matter of which feature is more important to the consumer.
Industrial Touch Panel PCs
It is also important to note that the underlying touch panel tech has also improved. Kontron, a leader in touch panel PC technology, moves the industry forward with products like the OmniClient. According to Kontron, the product is:
…ideal for running real-time control and visualization simultaneously whereas previously these applications had to be run on two or more dedicated systems.
This is especially important:
wherever machine and plant operators require convenient Panel PC systems to monitor and manage all their production processes. The integrated 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i5/i7 processor technology provides the highest performance to enable critical and highly complex, real-time applications to run on one computer.
Perhaps Apple has a point when it comes to desktops. Moving one’s hand away from the keyboard to touch a mouse can be annoying. Raising ones whole arm to touch something onscreen is even more so. While capacitive screens may be ready for the finger, operating systems and apps are not.
That said, PCMag recently ranked The 10 Best All-in-One PCs. #2 was the Lenovo C260 Touch. #1 was the much more expensive, non-touch iMac. PC vendors have done a lot with the AiO form factor that makes touch a lot more viable. It might still be some time before consumers want to touch their desktop computer.
Laptops and Hybrids
Unlike the desktop, touch makes a lot more sense in this type of device. While not ideal, the screen is still much closer to the keyboard. It requires less effort to touch it. The OS and apps are still not ready. But when they are, this will be the type of PC that benefits from touch the most. Cnet has pulled together a list of the best touch screen and hybrid laptops of 2015. This list is lead by the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. This choice is echoed by many other reviewers.
Smartphones and Tablets
Where touchscreens really shine are in devices that you hold while using. The iPhone and iPad lead the industry by a wide margin. This is not to say that these are the best smartphones and tablets in the industry. It is just that their screens are the best overall. Their color, brightness, resolution, off-axis viewing, and touch responsiveness set these devices apart with regard to the application of touchscreen tech in mobile devices.
Samsung tends to make excellent screens that look great initially. Unfortunately, either due to Android, or their own OS layer, their products are not quite as responsive as Apple’s offerings. Apple is the only major manufacturer that makes both the software and the hardware. That integration is hard to match by competitors.
The smartwatch category is too new to call. Most reviewers hail the Apple Watch as the best available. But they are not convinced the smartwatch category is meaningful at this time. The Moto360 seems to be the leader of the Android Wear pack. Whatever the future holds, it is almost certain we will be touching it.