…is how responsive the screen is to interaction: visual, touch and motion. That’s where Apple is succeeding and others, Android- and Windows-based devices, are failing compete. It also needs to be ‘Instant On’ like a mobile phone, but most have at least cottoned on to that.
— Update 30th March —
Steven Sinofsky has just posted on the Windows 8 blog details about Touch hardware and Windows 8, expanding on information first shared during the Build conference last October. We attended that conference and have a Samsung Windows 8 tablet prototype in our R&D lab. The touch sensitivity is certainly far superior to previous Windows devices we’ve worked with. But not as superior as the iPad (v1) that I’m still using for day-to-day tablet activities.
Somebody has added a great comment to Steven Sinofsky’s post:
Is there any support for great track pad for the laptops ? Many people (programmers, businesses) have the traditional laptops (may be with touch screen in future) but having a great quality touch with same gesture support will be THE feature for Windows PCs going forward
Spot on question. My primary hardware devices at the moment are an Apple MacBook Air, Apple iPad (v1) and Apple iPhone 3GS. All three have comparible sensitivity in the touch department. No, the MacBook Air does not have a touch-screen but the trackpad is so good that I no longer use a mouse. The same cannot be said for any Windows-based laptops I’ve worked with. Microsoft needs to get better at linking the experience (hate using that word but can’t think of a better one) across different form factors. A tricky challenge when you’re dependent on many different hardware vendors. And given Microsoft is not great at achieving this across software, or even their own web sites, the odds of that happening are not great.
— original post —
Ryan Block at gdgt outlines why he thinks the new iPad retina-display specs are a big deal:
The core experience of the iPad, and every tablet for that matter, is the screen. It’s so fundamental that it’s almost completely forgettable. Post-PC devices have absolutely nothing to hide behind. Specs, form-factors, all that stuff melts away in favor of something else that’s much more intangible. When the software provides the metaphor for the device, every tablet lives and dies by the display and what’s on that display.
So when a device comes along like the iPad that doesn’t just display the application, but actually becomes the application, radically improving its screen radically improves the experience. And when a device’s screen is as radically improved as the display in the new iPad, the device itself is fundamentally changed
Whilst the article emphasises the new retina-display introduced with the latest iPad, the same can be said for other sensory inputs and outputs – the sensitivity of the screen to touch (for swiping, input etc.) and reaction of apps to motion.
The first mobile phone I used that involved a pure touch-based user interface, i.e. no physical keyboard, was the HTC Hero running Google’s Android OS. For me it was a step change in how I used a phone and I loved it from the start. The ability to quickly swipe across screens and retrieve or view different data, whether it was to check emails, find a contact, follow a map, send a Tweet… it was a jump in productivity for me. Until…
… the iPad launched.
Having always been a fan of tablets and frustrated by the lack of progress, it was an easy decision to get one and see if the device was worthy of the hype. I still have it 2 years later and it’s an integral part of my daily work. I don’t still have the HTC Hero. Because once I started using the iPad, the way I touched screens altered. The iPad was way more responsive (read: reacted to a much lighter touch) than the HTC Hero. All of a sudden, I’d go to swipe the screen on the phone and it wouldn’t respond. I’d have to swipe again, but harder. It was nothing compared to the lack of sensitivity on Windows touch-enabled phones but it was enough to be annoying.
Then there’s the thought behind motion on Apple devices. I was delighted the first time I moved the iPhone from my ear to look at the screen (on a dreaded automated call that required keyboard input) – the keypad automatically appeared. On the HTC Hero, I was forever accidentally cancelling calls because it didn’t do that, you had to push a button to reactivate the screen and I’d invariably press the button that ended the call. Doh!
That’s why 2 years later, I now also have an iPhone, albeit the ageing 3GS model. Everything about how it responds to my actions trumps the alternatives I’ve tried. That’s the challenge facing Apple’s rivals. Tablets will, in one form or another, become a standard part of the typical workplace in the coming years. And they are setting the bar for what people have become used to. Alternatives need to either be a lot cheaper or do something fundamentally different that the iPad can’t.
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