Could ultrabooks with touch screens start to flood the market later this year? Intel was showing off just such a system at its CeBIT booth last month. Now, in an interview with PC World, the company has said it's encouraging partners to slap touch screens on their next-gen ultrabooks. Not just encouraging—strongly encouraging. Or, in the words of Intel Product Manager Anand Kajshmanan:
We fundamentally believe in the concept of touch, and touch on a clamshell. We believe it's going to take off in 2012 or at least 2013, especially with Windows 8. It really feels like now is the right time, now that the hardware and software are working really well together. We're strongly encouraging our partners to incorporate touch on the Ultrabooks.
We expect several touchscreen laptops in convertible form factors, like the Lenovo Yoga, to show up later this year, as well as screens that swivel around and slide over the keyboard.
Kajshmanan went on to say that touch screens will no doubt add to the cost of a system, although he wasn't sure how much, and it will be up to customers to decide whether they want to pay extra for the functionality, anyway. The idea, in Kajshmanan's view, is to offer choice.
Choice is usually a good thing, but I'm surprised to see so much enthusiasm about touch-enabled laptops. In one of his last keynotes, Steve Jobs famously slammed the concept, saying Apple's usability testing revealed that "touch surfaces don't want to be vertical." Jobs added, "It gives great demo but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off. it doesn't work, it's ergonomically terrible."
The solution, in Jobs' view, was to give users a good multi-touch touchpad—something Apple excels at, unlike most PC vendors. Considering how many Windows laptops ship with cramped, inadequate, or buggy touchpads, perhaps Intel should be focusing its energy there, instead.