We have written repeatedly that Windows itself is one of the main reasons why touchscreen computers have never caught the general public’s attention. The interface just wasn’t designed for finger input. Like it or not, that’s the truth. Windows was designed to be used with a mouse, and to a lesser extent, a pen or stylus.
That’s fine. Windows 7 works great. I’m writing this on a Win7 machine. But I hate Windows on my tablet computers for the aforementioned reason. It’s also the reason I’m very apprehensive of the upcoming onslaught of slate computers. I’m afraid that wonderful hardware will be passed up in favor of the disappointing iPad because of the interface. But Adobe gave me hope today in its demo of Flash and Air on the HP slate device.
The first minute or so of the demo is Adobe’s Flash Product Marketing manager talking about this and that. The real fun comes at the 1:30 mark. That’s when we get a glimpse of what appears to be an HP app manager that has clearly been designed for a touch interface. The buttons are large, uses stars to mark favorites programs or Internet shortcuts, and seems responsive enough. It’s probably safe to say that it’s an Adobe product seeing as it makes an appearance in this demo.
Even the browser seems to have been made over for the touch interface, which seems to be a custom build of Firefox. Of course it has all the multi-touch goodies like pinch zooming and two-finger scrolling, but it also feels different, too. That’s just as important as using standard Firefox or Chrome on a touchscreen is a drag without a bunch of plug-ins. And of course, Flash is fully functional, which is a clear shot across Apple’s bow.
You notice a few times throughout the demo that there are a couple of different user notifications to compensate for web’s smaller buttons and higher-resolution interface. There appears to be a small water ripple effect at 1:42 when the user hits the play button for the online video and then a dramatically larger one at the end of the Photoshop.com demo at 3:45 when he presses and holds. These effects are not shown during the HP Home demo or NYT Air app lending to the thought that they’re a browser-only effect, designed to assist browsing.
Now Adobe wouldn’t show off Windows in its demo. This was strictly an Adobe demo, but that’s fine. It answered a lot of questions about HP’s upcoming slate device. First, a full version of Windows is very much present, which is awesome. None of us wants a watered-down OS — except for iPad buyers, of course. But the demo also shows that there will be a versatile, touch-friendly interface for most tasks and multi-touch capabilities to exploit all the potential uses.
Hopefully HP, Dell and all the other mainstream tablet makers are on the same page with Adobe. They have the ability to stand up to the monstrosity that is the Apple App Store if they agree to slate standards, which will allow app developers to code one version of the their program and not worry about various screen resolutions and hardware variations.
Devin adds: This is an improvement on the smaller tablet we saw at CES. It’s about iPad-sized, which is to say a little smaller than a sheet of paper. I’m guessing an 8″ screen is what they’re working with there, though who knows what the final hardware will be. I still think that shrinking Windows is a bad start for a tablet device, as much so as puffing up the iPhone in the case of the iPad. The only device that may actually hit with a truly tablet-only OS seems to be the Courier, and that’s why I’m genuinely excited about it. The slate race does appear to be hotting up, though, and that’s a good thing.