Thursday, 26 March 2009 10:22
By Darren Waters BBC News
The multi-touch controls familiar to Apple iPhone users will be built-in to Microsoft's Windows 7. Windows Touch will be a "first class way to interact with your PC alongside mouse and keyboard," said the firm. Microsoft believes multi-touch PCs will become popular in retail, public spaces, on laptops and "kitchen PCs".
Some Windows machines already feature rudimentary touch input and Apple is also reportedly readying touch for Macs in its Snow Leopard update to OSX. A small number of multi-touch PCs are already on the market, including the HP TouchSmart and the Dell Latitude XT, and Microsoft hopes Windows 7 will create a new ecosystem of devices that take advantage of touch.
It has launched a Windows Touch Logo program, which will help consumers understand if a machine has been optimised for the new control system. Windows Touch will features controls such as tap and double tap, drag, scroll, zoom, flick and rotate. In a posting on the Windows 7 engineering blog, the team leading Touch developments said: "Quite a few folks have been a little sceptical of touch, often commenting about having fingerprints on their monitor or something along those lines.
"We think touch will become broadly available as the hardware evolves." Windows Touch is incorporating many of the lessons learned from the development of Microsoft's Surface table computer. Microsoft user interface evangelist Chris Bernard told BBC News: "Windows 7 will help take touch into the mainstream. "While Surface and machines running Windows 7 are different devices we have evolved a common vocabulary of touch.
"Gesture and touch are the two biggest changes to how we interact with our computers since the launch of the first Graphical User Interface, and the use of the keyboard and mouse." Microsoft says Windows Touch will be much more than just a "touch shell" for Windows. "We made sure you are getting the full Windows 7 experience," the blog post said. While some applications will be optimised for touch, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Centre, programs which are "touch unaware" will also have some level of touch control.
"For example, if someone tries touch scrolling over a window that is touch unaware, we can detect the presence of various types of scrollbars and scroll them," the engineers said. To help optimise the different ways of touching and gesturing Microsoft said it analysed data from "thousands of sample from hundreds of people". Windows 7 is expected to be released at the start of 2010. A "release candidate" for users to try out will be available at the end of May.