Businesses have been trying to find a use for touchscreen PCs since the technology was released widely back in 2009. Touchscreen computers are marketed primarily as multimedia centers and personal PCs, but there's a place for them in the office.
PC users upgrading to Windows 8 will find a touch-focused interface optimized for touchscreens. Although current touchscreens are shipping with Windows 7 support touchscreen technology, they're not quite optimized for it in the same way.
Why are touchscreens good for your office? To start, a younger demographic entering the workplace will appreciate the aesthetic of a touchscreen PC, and immediately understand how efficient work can be with one.
There's also the issue of repetitive strain injury (RSI). If you're adding a touchscreen to your mouse-and-keyboard mix, you'll be using a wider range of motion, which can reduce potential strain. However, a poorly implemented touchscreen may add to the problem. Unfortunately, it's too early to tell which side of the fence touchscreen PCs land on, and there haven't yet been any definitive studies.
There's also the question of efficiency. It takes less time to touch an icon than it does to navigate to it and click it using a mouse. While this may seem minor, if you add up all of the programs you open daily, you'll quickly see where the efficiencies are.
The perceived cost of touchscreen PCs has kept them out of most business budgets. Most now hover around $1000, in the range of acceptability, especially if you're considering an upgrade to Windows 8 within the next year. And if you're still rocking XP on your desktop boxes, it's time to upgrade.
Here are several all-in-one touchscreen computers released in 2011.
Samsung All-in-One Series 7
Samsung's recent entry to the touchscreen PC market features a 23" LED monitor with a wireless keyboard and mouse. The monitor can be tilted 90 degrees, making it a clean addition to the minimalist desktop. (If you like this entry, you may also want to check out Samsung's Series 7 tablet, which offers lots of functionality for a tablet.)
Price: $999 for Corei3 model exclusive to Best Buy, $1,199 for widely available Core-i5 model.
Toshiba DX1210-ST4N22 All-in-One
Toshiba's latest entry in the desktop PC market offers a 21.5" display and HDMI input, which makes it an ideal consumer multimedia PC. What makes it an ideal business PC is the price: $935. If you're using it to process TPS reports, you're not going to care much about its lack of a Blu-Ray hard drive.
HP TouchSmart620 3D Edition PC
HP's newest entry into the touchscreen all-in-one market is the TouchSmart 620 3D Edition PC. Its 23-inch screen features a bright, attractive IPS panel, with responsive touch controls. The built in webcam will allow users to make their own 3D videos, and the entire screen slides down in front of the user, for enhanced ergonomic appeal. While the 3D capabilities may not be a concern for most business, it's no slouch in the specifications department, packing a Core i5-2400S processor and 8GB of RAM. Check out PCWorld's review for its predecessor, the HP TouchSmart 610 Quad.
Price: $1899 minus a $300 instant rebate from HP
TrollTouch has been selling touch-enabled iMacs for a few years now. You can purchase iMacs with their touch technology installed or send your computers in to have Touch enabled. Most businesses will balk at the pricey installation costs, which are twice what a touchscreen PC will cost. You may want to hold off on this since touchscreens for iMacs can't be far off on Apple's horizon.
While many businesses will continue using the old standby of desktop PCs with wired keyboards and mice, those considering upgrades should really have a look at the touchscreens on the market. Your employees will find them fun to use, your office will look cool, and you can do it while still keeping your IT budget balanced.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She's written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest and Facebook.