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Why nobody cares about touchscreen laptops

IDC lowers projects on touch-enabled laptop sales after users make it clear that they simply don't want them.

It's starting to become clear: people just don't care for touch when it comes to the PC.

New research from IDC shows that touchscreen-enabled laptops will account for as few as 10% of all laptops sold this year. The company originally predicted sales of 17-18%, but IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell has now cut that to as low as 10%.

"Touch was too expensive last year," O'Donnell told Computerworld's Gregg Keizer. They have come down slightly from when they first hit the market, but not by much. "They're generally in the $699 to $799 range," he said. You can get a low-end Dell, HP or Acer for half that.

That's only laptops. There are desktops and all-in-one PCs but they account for a shrinking percentage of the market. In the PC space, notebooks make up much of the market. NPD Group also put touch-enabled laptops at about 12% of the market.

The fact is, I believe people have settled into a use mode for PCs. For better or for worse, we were settled in to using a keyboard and mouse with a desktop of icons. Even voice command hasn't taken off and its developers have worked on it for two decades. Until Microsoft comes up with the interface from "Minority Report," or at least "Iron Man," the keyboard and mouse is how people roll.

Apple, the company that does no market research or pre-testing, got it right. It recognized people do things one way with a PC and want to do it differently with a handheld device. In doing so, they sort of built a wall between iOS and MacOS, even though iOS is the little brother of the Mac operating system. A developer friend tells me the differences are such that a Mac OS port of his iOS app is essentially a whole new app.

Microsoft didn't want this. It wanted a single experience across the board, from smartphone to tablet to Xbox to PC. The only problem is that it tried to do too much at once. Windows 8 was panned by the same developer friend as cutting too many corners and fouling up libraries and other bits of plumbing between the phone, tablet and desktop.

And it flew in the face of how we use these things. Those of us experienced in desktops have mastered keystrokes so we don't need to stop and operate the mouse. I've memorized a bunch of Word keystroke combinations so I don't need to be slowed by switching to the mouse, for example. Word 2007, with its ribbon interface, not only changed where everything resided, it also changed a lot of keyboard commands, so some shortcuts I knew were gone.

And then Microsoft doubled down, changing not just how we operate Word but the whole OS. The warnings were there. Usability experts trashed the Windows 8 beta. Microsoft didn't listen. An ex-employee and UI expert set up a blog criticizing Windows 8. The blog mysteriously vanished. Too bad the poor reception for Windows 8 couldn't be made to go away.

Enough's enough. Just focus on making the tablets work and getting more Windows Phone OEMs, and admit touch on PCs is not the direction we want.

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