This Smart Desk concept is the Dell you actually want

Dell has cooked up a huge touchscreen "Smart Desk" concept for Dell World this week, its vision of what the digital workspace of the future will look like. Focusing on the sort of tools that digital artists, graphic designers, engineers, analysts, and anyone else wanting to dip their hands into their data, the broad LCD multitouch screen covers the desk like a 21st century blotter, and is paired with a second, equally sizable display, such as Dell's own UltraSharp 27, a 5K display which the company says will ship in December.

If you've ever seen a Wacom Cintiq then the approach won't be too much of a surprise. Dell says that its smart desk "instinctually separates seeing from doing," which basically means putting app-specific buttons and controls nearer to your hands so they're easier to reach for.

Swiping across the smart desk display calls up secondary pages of commands and menus, and there's 10-finger multitouch as well as pen input. Dell appears to have turned to Adobe's Ink & Slide digital pen and ruler set for its art tools, and we can certainly see how they would work well on such a large screen.

Unique to the smart desk, meanwhile, seems to be a physical controller for a virtual circular interface. Buttons around the periphery of the touchscreen summon things like the on-screen keyboard.

Multiple desktops can be saved and switched between, useful if you're working on different projects, and files can be searched and virtually "stacked". Dell also envisages user-specific layouts that can follow workers around as they move between different locations, so that you'd sit down at your smart desk and it would have exactly the same files, controls, and arrangement as wherever you were working before.

Dell says the smart desk is a "conceptual product preview" which likely means there's no specific production plan right now. However, the UltraSharp 27 Monitor – which has a whopping 5120 x 2880 5K resolution – will go up for preorder at "less than $2,000" on November 13th, and ship on December 18th.