Touch: The Future of Computing

Jeff Atwood got his hands on the newly released tablet Microsoft Surface RT. He reviews his experience with the device in his provocatively titled post “Do You Wana Touch” But it is his take on the future of computing which I thought was worth highlighting here:

love computers, always have, always will. My strategy with new computing devices is simple: I buy ’em all, then try living with them.The devices that fall away from me over time – the ones that gather dust, or that I forget about – are the ones I eventually get rid of. So long, Kindle Fire! I knew that the Nexus 7 was really working for me when I gave mine to my father as a spontaneous gift while he was visiting, then missed it sorely when waiting for the replacement to arrive.

As I use these devices, I’ve grown more and more sold on the idea that touch is going to dominate the next era of computing. This reductionism is inevitable and part of the natural evolution of computers. Remove the mouse. Remove the keyboard. Remove the monitor. Reducing a computer to its absolute minumum leads us inexorably, inevitably to the tablet (or, if a bit smaller, the phone). All you’re left with is a flat, featureless slate that invites you to touch it. Welcome to the future, here’s your … rectangle.

He rationalizes:

I’ve stopped thinking of touch as some exotic, add-in technology contained in specialized devices. I belatedly realized that I love to touch computers. And why not? We constantly point and gesture at everything in our lives, including our screens. It’s completely natural to want to interact with computers by touching them. That’s why the more unfortunate among us have displays covered in filthy fingerprints.

I don’t disagree. I love my iPhone and iPad. But I also love my MacBook Air, on which I am composing this post. Will we see a touch MacBook Air (with an uncompromised keyboard) from Apple in a few years? After reading Jeff’s post, I want to say yes.