We heard a while back that Windows 8 would support multi-touch via the trackpad. Sure, there’s some stuff you can do right now, but the promise made by Microsoft and Synaptics has been deferred for the most part. But they’ve put up a video that shows just how you can expect to interact with Windows 8 and Metro using a multi-touch trackpad.
You can watch the video here, but I’ve embedded it here as well for your convenience:
I have to say that some of these things look extremely handy. I use a PC desktop and a Mac laptop, and each one is jealous of the other for several reasons. One of the things I love on my MacBook is the multitasking multi-touch gestures. Switching between desktops or applications with a swipe of a couple fingers becomes second nature, and it looks like that’s being nicely integrated in Synaptics’ concept.
Essentially what they’re doing is just mapping your input on the large touchscreen into the normal touch driver; the difficulty is probably the precision and filtering, determining exactly where that finger is so you can provide touchscreen-level accuracy.
Naturally there are obstacles. I wrote a long time ago about the fundamental difference between direct and indirect manipulation of UI elements, and I can’t say that this video makes any difference to my opinion that we’ll likely always need both. After all, the feedback loop telling you where you’re putting your finger is a bit incomplete: it needs to let you know where your finger is hovering, since you can’t touch the items directly. As it is, I think you can touch and then press down to click, as we’ve been doing for a while, but that’s not cohesive enough.
Yet the edge gestures look like a joy. Flipping between apps looks as natural and useful as it feels on the tablets, and I like the idea of bringing up the charm bar like that. There’s a danger of accidentally activating these, but that’s a matter of software optimization and Synaptics is no slouch. In fact, usually it’s ODMs and OS makers who fail to implement their solutions properly.
They’ll be showing this off at the Microsoft Ecosystem Summit later this week. In the meantime more info can be found at the Synaptics press release.