Fujitsu, Lenovo Unveil Multitouch Tablets, Laptop PCs Ahead of Windows 7 Release

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Fujitsu and Lenovo this week announced PCs with multitouch capabilities, enabling users to manipulate applications beyond what a mouse and a keyboard can do. The OEMs are releasing the functionality in anticipation of Microsoft's coming OS Windows 7, which integrates multitouch. But will software makers have applications multitouch-enabled in time for the launch?

Touch-screens are certainly nothing new in systems from kiosks to iPhones, but now the technology is more often making its way into standard-sized mobile PCs – tablets and even laptops.

Case in point is a set of product releases from Fujitsu and Lenovo this week – systems that provide "multitouch" as an option in anticipation of the upcoming Windows 7 operating system from Microsoft that will include touch-screen capabilities integrated in the OS.

Lenovo and Fujitsu say that these systems are targeted for sales through the channel, since they typically appeal to industry verticals such as health care and engineering. (If you remember Tom Cruise manipulating the screen in the film "The Minority Report," that’s the future we are headed toward.)

"Engineers, architects and artists who have to work with physical objects and many students who have come up with the iPhone and  iPod Touch have taken to touch rather well," says Rob Enderle, principal at The Enderle Group.  "It is fascinating to watch one of the professionals who knows how to use a tool like this work because they can effectively take hours off the time creating a project by just using their fingers."

But while touch-screen capabilities offer a lot of promise, it may take some time for end users to be able to take full advantage of their potential. That’s because to enable true multitouch – which is the ability for the user to use more than one finger to manipulate an application on-screen – the specific software application must be enabled for multitouch.  Out of the box, users can only manipulate touch-screens as a mouse would manipulate what is on the screen.

Microsoft has yet to release a list of applications that will immediately support the multitouch functionality provided by Microsoft Windows 7, which ships on Oct. 22.

Lenovo this week announced the ThinkPad X200 Tablet PC and the ThinkPad T400s laptop. Lenovo has also introduced SimpleTap, an application that gives users control over basic PC functions by tapping two fingers on the PC multitouch screen.

Lenovo also announced that its new systems were designed with outdoor workers in mind, providing less screen reflectivity, which enables easier outdoor viewing. The screens are also coated to resist fingerprints, according to the company.

Here’s a demonstration, provided by Lenovo, of Lenovo SimpleTap technology:

Fujitsu this week announced that it will add multitouch input capabilities to its flagship LifeBook convertible tablet PC, the LifeBook T5010.  Fujitsu says the new dual digitizer's touch-screen function on the 13.3-inch display "supports two-finger touch for actions including panning, rotating, flicks and zooming." It enables seamless switching between pen and touch, according to Fujitsu, and is available now with Windows Vista and soon will be available with Windows 7.

Expect more PCs and applications that support touch-screen technology once Windows 7 is released, says Enderle.

"This is a signature feature in Windows 7, but people do have to change the way they are currently doing things. Fortunately for engineers and artists, that seems to be easier than many of us thought it would be," he says.  "It simply seems more natural, and that is what appears to be driving the demand. Standing against the demand, at the moment, is price, but that will change rather quickly next year."  

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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