What Windows 8 Means to AV
No doubt you’ve seen the ubiquitous ads for Microsoft Windows 8, including all that keyboard clicking and tablet touching. To get some perspective, I asked around our offices for experts and spoke to Cris Derr, Planar Product Marketing Director, about the impact of Windows 8, the growth of touch monitors on the desktop, and the impact on the AV industry. Here’s how it went:
Me: Cris, we have all seen the advertisements for Windows 8 and played with the new interface and it is very different from previous user-interface designs. Why do you think touch capabilities matter on the desktop?
Cris: With Windows 8, Microsoft has “modernized” the popular Windows operating system. As you point out, one of the most significant change users will experience is the Windows XP/7 Start menu has been replaced with a touch-friendly tile experience. Growth in mobile platforms has far outpaced previous desktops. When people use their laptops, Ultrabooks, convertibles, and tablets, at some point, they tend to go back to their desks. And when they’re at their desks, working off a small laptop screen or a mobile device isn’t very productive.
Mobility isn’t mutually exclusive from working at a desk. A touch-enabled monitor on the desktop brings the ease of smartphone and tablet computing to an office-based setting and enables you to pair both worlds seamlessly.
Me: Is there anything that is made easier with touch on the desktop?
Cris: Yes, many of the actions in Windows 8 were designed for touch, such as opening and closing applications. While these actions can be accomplished with a keyboard and mouse, they are much more intuitive with touch. Moreover, if you are using the Windows 8 operating system on a touch-enabled mobile device, you will quickly grow into the habit of using these gestures. Having a touch-enabled display on the desktop enables you to use these gestures in a more natural way.
Me: So does this mean the end of the computer mouse?
Cris: Touch can make some tasks easier, while the mouse and keyboard are suited well for other tasks. For example, writing a letter is much easier to do with a keyboard than a touch screen or a mouse. So, to answer your question, if the task is more natural with touch, use touch. if the task is more natural with a mouse or keyboard, use those tools.
Me: I heard that for desktop touch screens, the stand is important. Why is that? Why can’t touch screens just be used at the same angles as regular desktop monitors?
Cris: Steve Jobs said a few years back: “We’ve done tons of user testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical.” The problem is people report something called “gorilla arm” or fatigue from having to hold your arm up in an awkward position for too long. This is a problem associated with touch screens that use a more traditional desktop stand. Our research has shown it is critical that the stand for a touchscreen adjust to a more natural touch position, from vertical down to a 20-degree angle — or even laid flat. Think of the screen like a drafting table. In this way you can move the screen into the best viewing and touch angle.
Me: How is setting up a multi-touch PC system different than a non-touch system (i.e. a Windows 7 PC with monitor)?
Cris: A good touch display will support a variety of inputs, including HDMI, DisplayPort, and VGA. Just plugging in the appropriate cable will light up the display. To enable the touch requires plugging in a USB cable from the display to the PC. Unlike past Windows XP/7 systems, Windows 8 is designed to be driverless – so no special driver or software is needed to make it work.
Me: What are the top features to look for in a multi-touch monitor for the desktop?
Cris: First, the responsiveness of the touch is really important, as the screen should move with your motion. Second, look for a screen that you can easily adjust into the best viewing and touch position for you at a size large enough to work productively. Top software developers who have been writing touch-enabled applications recommend 27 inches. Third, this is a display, so buy a good-quality monitor with an outstanding warranty, like a multi-year warranty with advanced replacement included. Other features to look for include a webcam for video conferencing, USB hub, and digital video inputs, like HDMI and DisplayPort.
Me: What is the correlation between Windows 8 and the proliferation of touch technology for desktop computing, and what do these technological advances mean for the AV industry?
Cris: The lines continue to blur between AV and IT. Between mobile and desktop. Between cloud-computing and local processing. Between public and private space. There are large opportunities for the AV industry to embrace , adopt, and recommend Window 8-compatible digital displays to their clients and provide leadership to companies, government entities, retailers, and other customers.
Hundreds of thousands of Windows 8 licenses will be sold, and as service packs become available in time, more enterprise clients will be deploying this version of the Windows platform. This will not only create opportunities for touch monitors on the desktop, but touch-enabled displays in conference rooms and public spaces. Times of technological innovation are a great time for trusted industry advisors and resellers to provide thought leadership and consultation to their customers and translate that into growth, not only of the business, but of the applications to which clients seek the input of their AV integrator.
Me to you: Have you spent much time with Windows 8? Have any feedback on its touchscreen capabilities? Let us know in the Comments section.