Farhad Manjoo in Slate on his child using a MacBook.
He reaches for the screen and repeatedly taps to get a new clip to play. It’s pretty funny, actually. And then he whines for me to help him, which is kind of annoying.
Maybe he isn’t ready for a Mac. Maybe an iPad would be better for a child. Manjoo’s two-year-old son is a bit young for a MacBook, but most three-year-olds master the trackpad or mouse with ease. I have nieces and nephews that age and I wouldn’t dream of letting them near my Mac. Would you?
The HP Pavilion TouchSmart goes for $649.* When you get to machines classified as “ultrabooks”—the thin and light PCs that are meant to compete with Apple’s MacBook Air—it’s hard to find any that don’t have touch screens. The Acer Aspire S7, the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch, and the Samsung Series 7 Chronos—which go for around $1,100—can all be touched. You’ll spend around the same for a Mac, but if you touch its screen, all you’ll get are smudges.
This is laughable. If it’s a touchscreen, it’s got finger smudges.
I should note that the new touch PCs don’t dispense with track pads or mice; you’ll spend most of your time controlling them through those traditional means.
Then what’s the point?
The rise of touch-enabled computers raises two questions. First, what’s the point: Do you really need to be able to touch your computer’s screen rather than use a track pad or mouse? And second, why is Apple—the firm that has done more to stoke our collective touch-screen fervor than any other—apparently holding out against touch on its computers?
The answers are obvious. A touchscreen notebook is uncomfortable to use, requires extra physical effort, and brings nothing beneficial to the user but could cause bursitis.
Why doesn’t Apple have a touchscreen MacBook? See above.
Yes, a touch screen on a PC can be useful. Over the past few months I’ve used a few touch-enabled Windows 8 PCs, and during the last week I’ve been playing with a Chromebook Pixel that Google sent me to review. I’ve found their touch screens to be handy—the screen complements the keyboard and the track pad quite naturally, making for one more way to get your computer to do your bidding.
By that logic, using your foot and toes on a touchscreen or trackpad would be yet one more way to get the computer to do your bidding. The real question should be, ‘Is a touchscreen a better interface than a trackpad or a mouse.’ To answer that, look at the sales of notebooks or desktops with touchscreens. The buying public has voted already.
Manjoo quotes a Microsoft researcher regarding usage of touchscreens on Windows PCs (not tablets). Aidan Marcuss:
We see it very clearly in the data. People with touch laptops touch the screen. They reach out, they touch it, and over time they touch it more. They intersperse typing and touching quite a bit. It makes them more efficient in many of the things they want to do—for instance, in the very simple use case of flipping through a PowerPoint presentation. The data supports it. People do it.
Despite the absolute lack of data from the data (How much is the touchscreen used? Does touchscreen usage drop off over time? What about users who buy their own PCs with touchscreen vs. those who have a touchscreen PC forced onto them in the office?), isn’t it obvious that a touchscreen notebook or PC is merely another solution looking for a problem?
How’s that new wave of touchscreen PCs working out for the PC industry or Microsoft? Nobody says anything about sales numbers. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. Google’s Chromebook Pixel looks like a MacBook with two additional features. Touchscreen. And an option for 4G LTE for $200 more. Reviews love the hardware, but can’t figure out why someone would buy a MacBook-like notebook that does much less, and costs more. A touchscreen notebook is nice eye candy, but a waste of human resources.