Multitouch revolution

22 07 2009

Let’s face it, anything in the technology world that allows or uses the term “touch” is cool. The iPhone really got people interested in touch technology, and before you know it, we all want a touch phone, or a PC with touch technology. But touch isn’t something Apple invented for its iPhone, nope, touch has been around for quite some time now. EPOS systems (like our own) have been using touch screens for years. It’s just that, well, Apple has done what Apple does best, makes something sexy and desirable, then markets it as something wonderfully new.

Touch at home…

In the past 18 months, we have seen a number of machines starting to use touch technology. Though a little under-spec for their price, they do deliver great user experiences, and a great look and feel. The problem has been that these machines have had to have their own software overlaying the Windows operating system, to really get a great “touch” experience.

Microsoft though, through its Surface development, has spent a long time looking into and developing its own touch screen and touch technology. Surface delivers some great experiences and touch ability, and if you start searching the web for videos of Microsoft Surface or Surface Sphere, you will see some simply stunning demonstrations. Surface has no doubt driven Windows 7 to support multitouch experiences, at a native operating system level. This really means touch screens will take off not just in the workplace, but at home now…

Microsoft have taken the touch revolution further, offering touch overlays for standard monitors and plasma screens, effectively touch enabling these devices. For me that’s great, it means I can use my 42” plasma display unit as a touch screen to give demonstrations at corporate events.

Touch for business

Well we all want user experiences to be as good as they possibly can be. More importantly, we want users to be able to use software quickly and easily, and hopefully, without the need for lots and lots of training. Touch does open up new doors for developers, especially those who develop desktop applications, and rich web applications, using Silverlight. Why? Well desktop applications will be able to take advantage of the touch capabilities of the operating system and Silverlight, also supports touch, though essentially Silverlight is used for web experiences.

With touch comes new ways of designing software, which can promote simpler yet more powerful user interfaces and rich experiences. For sometime, our own workFile Vision product has been designed with touch in mind, with interfaces that can only really work well if touch is in place.

It’s worth noting that, just because Windows 7 supports touch, it doesn’t mean your applications will automatically work with all touch features. A limitation with Silverlight is that it understands and recognises multitouch events; however, it doesn’t understand touch gestures. If you want to support gestures, you’re going to have to write your own application code.

What do we need to support multitouch?

So what do you need to have in place to support touch? Well, multitouch requires an environment (platform and operating system, hosting application such as a browser) that supports and can propagate touch events. Windows 7 provides such support at the operating system level. Touch events are promoted to mouse events; therefore standard applications will be able to take advantage of basic touch input. But multitouch is what we want, we want to be able to size windows with our fingers, quickly navigate through options, zoom in and out etc etc. Multitouch is what we need to be able to do these things…

For web applications, you need to ensure your application host is also touch aware. Now at the moment, the only “multitouch” aware browser I know of is IE8. This means that it will support multitouch events and propagate these to the web application correctly. So if you have a web application written in Silverlight, you can take advantage of multitouch events and deliver richer and more user friendly web experiences.

Catch up…

I have no doubt that Windows 7 touch experiences will lead to more and more people purchasing machines / monitors that allow touch experiences. This means Apple will have to start delivering touch experiences on the Mac too. Touch issues are also present in web browsers. Because currently the only multitouch aware browser is IE8, the likes of Safari, Chrome and FireFox need to play catch up. For me, if my machine supports touch, I want my browser to support multitouch too!

More and more desktop applications will need to start to support multitouch events. The same can be said of web based applications, be they business or for the general public. This means technologies such as Flash will also need to start supporting multitouch events. Especially as Silverlight already does…

For many, multitouch support could prove to be a nightmare, however, for those that choose to implement it, will no doubt enjoy better end user experiences and ultimately, sales…

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Queuing for Windows 7

15 07 2009

It’s amazing that with all the press hype about Google Chrome OS, I have seen only a few posts in blog world and within Twitter that actually mentions Windows 7 is now on pre-sale within the UK. Reportedly the BBC states more copies of Windows 7 were sold than those of Windows Vista in its entire 17 week pre-ordering period! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8151342.stm That’s an impressive start for Windows 7.

Vista hasn’t been that popular a version of Windows, it received lots of bad press initially some of which was just. However, I have been running Vista on a number of machines (including development platforms) since Vista was released, and well, surprise surprise, I haven’t had a single issue with it! It does show that the press really do have a say when it comes to influencing our spending habits and those of corporations even….Well, when it comes to Microsoft products for some reason.

So is Windows 7 just a quick fix for Vista. Well no, it’s more than just that, offering lots of improvements, including file management and performance, not to mention delivering new functions such as support for touch screen technology. Windows 7 has also had rave reviews (well as much support as you will find on the web for Microsoft products), so it isn’t that surprising that end users are queuing up to purchase their pre-ordered version, which they will receive on October 22nd when the software goes on general release in stores. (By the way, that’s my brothers birthday date.)

EU regulations

Well the EU has to be involved if it’s a Microsoft product, and this time the powers that be have ruled that Windows 7 cannot be shipped with a web browser (great…who made that decision?). This is to do with an anti-trust ruling but also to do with competition. One of the big issues I have with this is that it only seems to effect Microsoft, I don’t see Apple having to sell their machines and OS without Safari? I am also sure Google Chrome OS will be shipped with the Chrome browser pre-installed too? So not sure how decisions are being made behind closed doors at the EU. Needless to say, us the end users and general public are the ones who suffer for this plain stupidity.

Windows 7 Prices

Well for home users you are looking at around £50, professional setting you back £99.99, which for such a class operating system is not bad value for money. I think many people have forgotten just how hard it is to write an operating system, it’s not a simple task. If it were, I am sure Google would have written one instead of using Linux, adding their browser and putting their own name to it…

Business take up?

This could be the first time we see businesses actually jumping to the latest version of Windows sooner rather than later. Often businesses like to wait until at least one service pack has been released before they entertain upgrading their machines. However, with Windows 7 I get a real feel from in house IT systems that they are looking forward to getting their hands on the OS and getting it rolled out.

I also think that SMEs will be looking to upgrade as soon as they can, though their route is usually via purchasing new machines as and when they need them, as opposed to upgrading machine operating systems across the board.

Some figures on Windows 7 take up (predictions)

Predictions are that some 7 million units of Windows 7 will be sold by the end of this year, with this figure increasing to some 177 million units by the end of 2010. In contrast, Vista is expected to sell only 18 million units. This isn’t surprising really, is it…

Competition?

Well read the press and there is expected to be lots of competition from Google, however, I don’t really see this to be the case. Google have come very late to the OS market, one which is dominated by Windows, and one where the majority of average joes, prefer the idea of having only a single operating system. No matter what the hype is that surrounds Google Chrome OS, the fact of the matter is that Windows 7 will no doubt be a better operating system. Also, Chrome appears to be geared (at first at least) to the Netbooks marketplace, one which is rather small.

The usual comparisons will be made though, no doubt in October we will see lots of comparisons between Apple Mac OS X and Windows 7….

Conclusion…

For once the hype is right, Windows 7 is a great OS and I cannot see any argument for choosing any alternative, be it for business or home use…It’s just a shame the EU have to get involved…