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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.”