The future of the desktop PC

I’ve been watching the launch of Windows 8 with great interest. It’s clearly a move by Microsoft to stay one step ahead of the game. It’s all about touch. I have friends with desktop PCs and I asked which aspect of Windows 8 they used the most. The traditional “desktop” mode that we all are accustomed to as Windows users, or do they use the “tiles” mode. They answered the same. They both use the traditional desktop mode and not this new interface or “tiled” mode which is what makes Windows 8 different from Windows 7 and all previous Windows versions. I’ve also listened to experts talk about Windows 8 and they like it on touchscreens and in that environment it works well. This leads me to further analysis.

If Windows 8 is truly designed for touch, then where does that leave the non touch user? As in, when I hear my friends saying that they are using Windows 8 in traditional desktop mode, that caused me to buy Windows 7 and not Windows 8. But beyond my observations, what is Microsoft thinking in the long term here? If the new OS shines with touch but desktop PCs don’t make use of touch, why would people flock to upgrade their Windows operating system? I think when you have experts and people saying that it’s an OS designed for touch, it leaves the rest of us scratching our head. I’ve seen the ads today that Internet Explorer is “perfect for touch”.

I will go one step further. Desktop PCs are set up in such a way that I don’t imagine we want to reach over our desk to touch a screen. Think about the monitor and display industry. Are they going to need touch panels in the future because Windows is going in that direction?

Here is the real crux of the issue. If you own a Windows 8 tablet or laptop with a touch display, you are obviously going to be using the tile mode. Perhaps not, but the experts seem to indicate that it’s a great OS when using the touch features. So given that situation, what happens when you go home to use your desktop PC and it’s not touch? Do you not think out of habit that you will want to touch or need to touch the display? The problem I think really comes when you are so used to and familiar with the touchscreen mode of Windows 8, that you must have touch to use Windows 8. At that point I wonder what the future would be of your desktop PC if it doesn’t have a touch panel display. Laptops now can be with or without a touch panel. If you have a Windows 8 tablet and use a Windows 8 laptop without a touchscreen, would that not be a source of frustration?

My bottom line is that as I write this, I’m leaning back on my computer chair and my display is on the desk. In no way now or in the future do I desire leaning across the tablet and using my fingers to control the OS. If I spent time on a Windows tablet to any extent, I’m sure instinct will trick me into leaning across the desk to touch the screen at some point. I personally just think it’s not practical to have touch on a desktop PC environment. It might work for some people, but for me it’s “no thanks”. So this makes me ask whether Windows 8 and future releases can cater to both touch and non touch computers. If you think about it, the desktop computer may ultimately demand a touch display in the future. It’s a gamble isn’t it? Does the consumer want to updates their operating system and then have to also buy a new display (at a high price) so that they can get all the bells and whistles from the new operating system? Essentially this movement would kill off non touch displays if you think it through. Essentially it would make your typical LCD monitor like the 8-track cassette or even the cassette tape of the past.

I’m just not sure where the desktop PC will fit in. When you see “built for touch” in Internet Explorer ads, in a roundabout way Microsoft is turning their back on the traditional desktop user. Obviously tablets are the future, but leaving non touch users feeling old and outdated? I’m just not sure if consumers are ready to take the full plunge into touch desktop PC computers. Manufacturers haven’t started the onslaught of touch panel monitors yet so that might indicate a cautious outlook.

You tell me. I would be curious how you personally have found using Windows 8 on touch and then using on non touch and whether it’s confusing.

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