Tech Companies: Don’t Forget the Touchscreens

When HP released the DreamScreen last week, I was excited. Just by the looks of things, the device seemed like a perfect fit for my living room. It’s one part digital photo frame and another part mini-entertainment device. The product sports the ability to listen to music on Pandora, the option to view images, and more.

But there’s one issue with the DreamScreen. That screen that’s so dreamy? Well, it seems ideally suited for a touchscreen. But when it comes time to actually use the device, it turns out that touching the screen just smudges it. You can’t control a single feature with your fingers. Worst of all, you need to control everything on screen with a handful of buttons around the bezel of the display.

That (major) issue disappointed me. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see a device called the DreamScreen, I expect its screen to provide a dream-like experience. And in today’s tech space, that means that screen will feature touch controls.

Maybe it’s unfair of us to expect touchscreens from tech companies. Just because Apple has done it, perhaps we shouldn’t expect every other company to release products featuring touchscreens.

Then again, maybe we should. There’s little debating that touchscreens are the future. In fact, they have become so ubiquitous in the mobile space that a company that doesn’t release a mobile phone featuring a touchscreen is well on its way to being ignored.

So far, touchscreens haven’t crept into the computing space as much as I would have liked. Companies are still unsure about how they can make the technology work effectively.

But not including a touchscreen in a product like the DreamScreen is unbelievable to me. It’s not like HP is a boutique vendor that can’t afford touch displays. Quite the contrary, HP has more than enough cash to make touchscreens a key component in its strategy. And yet, it hasn’t.

Whether companies like it or not, we expect touchscreens in any device that features a prominent screen and no keyboard. We instinctively move our fingers to the display, rather than opt for the physical keyboard. To not provide that functionality is a major issue in product design. The last thing any company should want to see is a consumer using a product the wrong way, while becoming frustrated to see that it doesn’t function in the way they believe it should.

Tech companies need to invest in the future. And although they might not want to hear this, the future is rooted in touch displays. Whether it’s a notebook or a high-end digital photo album, touchscreens should be featured in just about any product that’s on the market. The intuitive design appeals to what we want to do. And perhaps most importantly, it’s what we have come to expect.

No more excuses. It’s coming close to the end of 2009. Either we see touchscreens in more products or we don’t buy them. Deal?

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist whose work has included popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move on Twitter at @donreisinger.

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