With the official launch of Windows 8 on the imminent horizon, PC manufacturers have announced a diverse array of new hardware. The problem with all of the desktop options is that they lack the one peripheral device they need to work effectively with Windows 8: a touchpad.
Just to catch everyone up, Windows 8 is engineered for touch. The Modern UI (formerly known and still referred to by the masses as “Metro”) is a colorful interface of mobile-esque tiles and apps. It’s possible to work with Windows 8 using a traditional mouse and keyboard, but it’s not as fluid or intuitive as simply tapping and swiping.
I have a Samsung Series 7 Slate with Windows 8 Pro. Most of the time it sits on my desk in a docking station emulating a desktop. It has a wired connection to my broadband Internet, and it’s connected to my 23” monitor via HDMI, and wirelessly to a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.
The mouse I’m using is one of the new Microsoft Sculpt Touch devices, which—as the name implies—has some touch capabilities. There is a strip on the top where the scroll wheel is found on most mice which allows you to also swipe left and right. While that’s better than no touching and swiping, it’s nowhere near as natural as taking the tablet out of its dock and just working with Windows 8 via the touchscreen.
There are plenty of Windows 8 desktop options available for pre-order. Windows 8 has sparked a resurgence of massive all-in-one PCs complete with touchscreen displays. A touchscreen display is an obvious imperative for a tablet, and it’s a nice addition for a notebook or ultrabook, but it’s impractical for a desktop. It’s awkward to have your hands on the keyboard to type, and then have to reach up and across your desk to tap or swipe the monitor.
Some all-in-one desktops, like the Acer Aspire models, can recline so that they are almost flat on the desk, but with a slight tilt so you can still comfortably view the screen. That is a neat feature, and a great step in the right direction, but if you’re typing and working with Windows 8 your keyboard would still be in front of the display, forcing you to reach up and across to interact with the touch interface.
That’s where a touchpad comes in. A touchpad—like Apple’s Magic Trackpad for Mac OS X—enables you to interact with the operating system as if you’re tapping and swiping a touchscreen, while also allowing you to keep your hands at keyboard level as if you’re using a mouse.
Unfortunately, Windows 8 desktops seem to still be bundled with old-fashioned mice. If you want to be comfortable using a Windows 8 desktop you can get your own touchpad, though, like the Logitech Touchpad T650.
Tony is principal analyst with the Bradley Strategy Group, providing analysis and insight on tech trends. He is a prolific writer on a range of technology topics, has authored a number of books, and is a frequent speaker at industry events.