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Category: Touch-based devices

Touch device first impressions

One of the nice benefits of working on TouchXPRT has been the opportunity to play with the latest touch devices.  The latest two are Windows 8/RT tablets, the ASUS Vivo Tab RT and the Microsoft Surface. I’ve been using the Vivo Tab without a keyboard and relying solely on touch while on the Surface, I’ve been using the cool keyboard/screen cover as well as touch. Overall, I’ve found the devices and Windows 8 very interesting, but still rough around the edges. One example of interesting on the interface formerly known as Metro (IFKaM) is the elongated landscape screens. They take a bit of getting used to, but may prove to be a good choice. On the rough-around-the-edges front, the first thing I currently do on any new device is to install Dropbox so I can get to some files to play around with. Dropbox is not yet available, though it certainly will be—hopefully soon!

IFKaM has a lot to it. On the one hand, it does not seem to me as intuitive as IOS. On the other hand, I have found that if I look hard enough, I can find a way to do something I’m used to doing in Windows. For example, even though I couldn’t use Dropbox, it dawned on me that I could just mount my file server and get to some files that way. As I spend more time with these devices, I’ll have to see if the tradeoff of a longer learning curve pays off in terms of more power and flexibility.

While I ponder that, I want to put in a mention about TouchXPRT 2013 CP1. The source is now available to members. Let us know if you see areas to improve TouchXPRT or the code itself as we work the final version over the next few months. Thanks!


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TouchXPRT in the fast lane

I titled last week’s blog “Putting the TouchXPRT pedal to the metal.” The metaphor still applies. On Monday, we released TouchXPRT 2013 Community Preview 1 (CP1).  Members can download it here.

CP1 contains five scenarios based on our research and community feedback. The scenarios are Beautify Photo Album, Prepare Photos for Sharing, Convert Videos for Sharing, Export Podcast to MP3, and Create Slideshow from Photos.

Each scenario gives two types of results. There’s a rate, which allows for simple “bigger is better” comparisons. CP1 also gives the elapsed time for each scenario, which is easier to grasp intuitively. Each approach has its advantages. We’d like to get your feedback on whether you’d like us to pick one of those metrics for the final version of TouchXPRT 2013 or whether it makes more sense to include both. You’ll find a fuller description of the scenarios and the results in the TouchXPRT 2013 Community Preview 1 Design overview.

While you’re looking at CP1, we’re getting the source ready to release.  To check out the source, you’ll need a system running Windows 8, with Visual Studio 2012 installed. We hope to release it on Friday. Keep your eye the TouchXPRT forums for more details.

Post your feedback to the TouchXPRT forum, or e-mail it to  Do you want more scenarios? Different metrics? A new UI feature? Let us know! Make TouchXPRT the benchmark you want it to be.

As I explained last week, we released CP1 without any restrictions on publishing results. It seems that AnandTech was the first to take advantage of that. Read AnandTech’s Microsoft Surface Review to see TouchXPRT in action.

We are hoping that other folks take advantage of CP1’s capability to act as a cross-platform benchmark on the new class of Windows 8 devices. Come join us in the fast lane!


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Tablets everywhere

Everyone wants in on the tablet market. This month, two software vendors have announced hardware tablets—Microsoft’s Surface and Google’s Nexus 7. Both vendors in the past relied on OEMs to create tablets using their software (Windows and Android). Both have met with limited success doing so.

Now, both are trying Apple’s strategy of controlling the hardware as well the software. Unlike Apple, however, Microsoft and Google still need to work with their OEM partners. I’m looking forward to watching that delicate dance!

I’m looking forward more, however, to being able to actually play with both of those products. I’m also looking forward to using TouchXPRT on such products. We have not given you an update in a while on TouchXPRT, but rest assured that we are hard at work on it. Once we have HDXPRT 2012 ready to go, we will give you more details on where we are with TouchXPRT and its current schedule. The touch and tablet market are heating up and we plan to be there for it. As we have indicated before, we will support Windows 8 Metro in the first version, but we see a real need for TouchXPRT to work on multiple platforms. So much to do!

Please note that today is the end of the beta test period. We appreciate the results, bugs, and suggestions you have sent so far. Feel free, however, to continue to send us any feedback or issues you find even after the official beta period is complete. After today, we can’t guarantee to be able to address them, but we will try.


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Touch: The finger versus the stylus

One advantage of being in the industry for a long time is seeing the development pendulum go back and forth. One such pendulum is the way of interacting with touch interfaces. Touch interfaces existed long before the current phone and tablet devices. I remember the HP-150, an early touchscreen PC, from my days working on Kermit in the 1980s. It was not a big seller, so you probably never used one. However, you may have used early touchscreen technology in devices like kiosks. While those touch interfaces were fairly simple, you used your fingertip on the screen to indicate your selections.

When PDAs became a big deal in the 1990s, the stylus rather than the fingertip became the way to touch the screen. If you lost your stylus or did not feel like pulling it out of the case, you could use your fingernail. I became very good at writing in the odd script that the Palm OS used. (I still sometimes write the letter A as an upside-down V.) Though the stylus was easier, you could do most things using your fingernail. I also used a stylus (and my fingernail) with Windows smartphones.

Smartphones, especially the iPhone, swung the pendulum back to touching the screen with your fingertip. It took me a decent bit of time to adjust to touching the screen that way. I also had to get used to staring at screens through fingerprints. The ability to multi-touch, however, made that worthwhile. (And, caused me to make sure I always carry those screen-cleaning cloths.)

Recent tablets have generally utilized multi-touch, fingertip interfaces. I still find myself wishing for a stylus at times. I’ve purchased a few different styli for using my iPad, but the mushy, fingertip-like ends leave much to be desired. I just ordered an interesting compromise, the Adonit Jot Classic Stylus. I’m hopeful, but won’t be surprised if I’m disappointed.

The stylus on some Windows 7 tablets like the Dell Latitude ST shows what is possible with a stylus. The stylus can be really useful in some work environments. Hopefully, we’ll see more innovation in touch interfaces. In my ideal world, I could use a simple stylus or my fingernail some of the time and my fingertips when multi-touch is better—all on a single device, of course! For now, I just have to keep cleaning off my iPad’s screen while I try to find the ideal stylus.

Whatever way the touch interface pendulum swings, we’ll try to make sure that TouchXPRT will be the right tool to measure it.


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