Multitouch isn’t a total stranger to notebooks – Dell’s Latitude XT shipped with a capacitive touchscreen that, in July, got a firmware update to enable pinch-zooming and other gestures, while Synaptics’ latest touchpads have multitouch-style gestures – but it’s been a harder sell than in, say, Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch. Windows 7 will ship with support for multitouch, but manufacturers are more cautious; according to a Fujitsu spokesperson, touch-sensitivity on a notebook “is not intuitive”.
“You don’t see a lot of touchscreen notebooks because it is not intuitive to reach up and start touching the screen when there is a good keypad” Paul Moore, senior director product management, Fujitsu
Perhaps what Moore should have said is that it’s not intuitive unless there’s a good reason for it. While multitouch makes sense on a handheld mobile device, primarily because the space for alternative interfaces is much reduced, users are far more used to their laptops being intended for a lap or desk and thus having space for a variety of more traditional input methods. Give them a real, distinctive application for multitouch, however, and analysts believe consumers will be quicker to demand the functionality.
“I don’t think there’s inherently anything great about multitouch unless it is mapped to a functionality. Multitouch on notebooks would be a lot more interesting if manufacturers identified the top five things that are arduous to do with a keyboard and would be easier to do with multitouch” Anthony Andre, professor of human factors and ergonomics at San Jose State University and principal of Interface Analysis Associates
However, if there’s one thing the recent netbook flurry has shown us, just because a manufacturer doesn’t like the niche it doesn’t mean they won’t be offering products in it. It was Paul Moore himself who described netbooks as “a product that essentially has no margin” and that “doesn’t add up”; shortly after, Fujitsu announced their own netbook, the AMILO Mini Ui 3520.