Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dear manager, why you should give me a touch-enabled developer portable … or a separate touch enabled tablet

If you look at  ATMs, automatic checkouts at grocery stores or even at the on board computing you will notice that there’s a change in how you interact with these devices: you touch the screen to start the interaction.

In 2008 Gartner analyst Steve Prentice predicted the demise of the computer mouse in the next three to five years  (see Say goodbye to the computer mouse), a statement which now seems a little bit exaggerated but maybe it is only the timeline were he was off.

Currently when you think about a great touch experience you think about smartphones and tablets (with the most notable examples the iPhone and iPad) but not really about PCs.

But touch as a way of interacting with business applications would in fact make more sense in some scenarios or provide a more intuitive user experience – something which sometimes referred to as NUI (Natural User Interfaces).

With the introduction of Windows 8 – Microsoft will finally be able to compete with the Android and iOS user experience  (See Windows 8: Touch Keyboard – Handwriting recognition, metro UI (You Tube video)) by providing as a first-class experience.

In 2011 the PC market grew 15% to  414.6 million units of which 15% tablets (majority driven by iOS or Android) (Source: Canalys) – this leaves about 300 million PCs shipped with Windows on it. Even if this number declines in 2012-2013 this still provides for an enormous user base which will be accustomed to using touch in applications. When you look at the current types of applications in the Apple market place or even on the Windows 8 market place you will notice that the majority is aimed at consumers and not at business scenarios.

But consumerization of IT will force developers of business applications to provide the same fluid (and natural) user experience. An interesting statement is made in Consumerization of IT: Getting beyond the Myths:

And while browsing e-mail and social networking sites is still the primary use of personal devices, executives say the consumerization of IT is playing an increasingly important role in mission-critical tasks such as customer relationship management, time and expense tracking, and enterprise resource planning.

For us developers building touch-based touch-based systems will require understanding a new set of guidelines, thinking about user scenarios and target audiences and careful interface design. Off course it all starts with having a touch enabled device.

The thing I’m not really sure about is whether to use a touch enabled portable (I really like the Lenovo X220) or buying a separate tablet such as the Acer Iconia Tab W500 or the more pricier option a Samsung Series 7 XE700T1A. From a developer perspective, this would also provide for a viable alternative since Visual Studio 2011 Beta provides the ability to debug your Metro apps remotely).

Leave your comments and thoughts …


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