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Category: Touch-based computing

A new benchmark

Hopefully, you caught our press release yesterday: The short form of it is that we (PT and the HDXPRT Development Community) are going to create another benchmark—one aimed at touch-based devices. The obvious place to start will be Windows 8 Metro. Because it is a Windows-based touch platform, the development process should not be too different from work we have done in the past and may even allow us to use some code from HDXPRT. The longer-term goal of going cross-platform will be much more challenging. One step at a time!

Touch-based computing devices and Windows 8 Metro are emerging areas without any good tools for comparing performance. We are all excited at this opportunity to create a benchmark to meet that need and hope you are as well. After all, we will need your help to pull this off!

As I mentioned last week, I will be at CES. I would love to talk with as many of you as possible about the new touch benchmark and HDXPRT 2012. We’ll have a suite at the Hilton and I will be on the show floor checking out the latest gadgets, especially touch devices. Drop us an email at if you would like to stop by the suite or will be working a booth or suite and would like me to stop by. Either way, I’m hoping to see quite a few of you folks there.


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The reach of touch

I’ve spent some time over the last week looking into computing devices with touch interfaces. It has become clear to me that touch is not just the next way of interacting with a computing device. As has been the case with earlier input mechanisms such as the punch card, keyboard, and mouse, the interface defines the experience and the whole platform. I have been in the industry long enough to have started on punch cards. When you wrote programs in that environment, you made sure that everything was right before you even attempted to run the program. (You also tried really hard to not drop your deck of punch cards!)

Keyboards and monitors drove command-line interfaces. In those interfaces, I learned how to enter really complex commands to do things like repeat or modify earliercommands. (If !! or !$ mean anything to you, that probably means you understood how to get the most out of the C shell command-line interface.)

The mouse, as an input device, worked naturally with windowed environments. Click, drag, and drop all took on new meaning in the mouse-centric world. The mouse lends itself well to precision but can be cumbersome for something like turning the page in a document—I still often use the page-down key instead.

Touch-based computing devices are beginning to define their environments. Not only does touch determine what is easy (turning a page is trivial, but picking an exact point on the screen is hard), but a way of working. Applications tend to be less complex, and cheaper and easier to get. Consequently, applications (and their usages) are much more disposable. I used the same family of keyboard-based text editors for at least fifteen years (EMACS) before moving to a mouse-based, windowed word-processing environment and have not changed that (Word) for even longer. However, I have used multiple note-taking programs on my iPad in just the last couple of months. In the world of the mouse and windows, deciding on a particular program required a large investment of time and money. In the world of touch and application markets, I try a few programs, pick one I like, and do not hesitate to change when a new one comes out.

All of this, of course, will need to come into play in any attempt to benchmark a touch environment such as Windows 8 Metro. For example, there may be less emphasis on particular applications than on categories of applications. It also means that it will likely be important to have more small, targeted usage scenarios than a few large scenarios. What do you think will be different (or the same) in a touch benchmark?

I, and the HDXPRT team, wish everyone a great holiday! Enjoy some time at home with family. And, enjoy playing with whatever new devices you get this year!


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A touch of tomorrow

As is often the case for me, Christmas shopping has given me the chance to look at all sorts of gadgets. (No, I’m not sure who to buy them for, but that isn’t the point.) The wealth of touch-based devices like the iPad, the Kindle Fire, the Galaxy Tab, and phones of all sorts is either incredibly exciting or amazingly confusing. Touch-based interfaces have moved well beyond the devices they started on and are showing up pretty much everywhere. Even my car (a Nissan Leaf) uses a touch interface. When I use a device with a screen, like my camera, and can’t touch the screen, it just feels wrong.

The power of computing devices like the iPad and other tablets is bringing touch into what we traditionally think of as the PC marketplace. The debut next year of Windows 8 with its touch-based Metro user interface will add another serious player to the mix. Touch will be in your desktop and notebook future. (Which for me means a steady supply of cloths for wiping screens will be a necessity, but that’s another story.) I think that touch will be the dominant interface—surpassing the mouse—in the near future.

When I see that kind of shift in the marketplace, and the resulting product diversity, my background makes me think that such an area is ripe for some good tools to compare the products. What do you think? Do we need a new generation of touch-based benchmarks for Metro? For other touch-based platforms?

Back here in HDXPRT Central, I do want to mention that the HDXPRT 2012 design specification is now available. Check it out at!


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