Is touch contributing to the death of the PC?
HP yesterday revealed two reclining touchscreen PCs and in the accompanying press release Mike Nash, vice president, Product Management, Consumer PCs and Consumer Solutions, HP said: "Customers have told us that they want touch on their PCs", but do they? Really? Because the list of bestselling PCs on Amazon tells a different story. That suggests customers don’t want touch on their PCs.
According to the latest figures from NetMarketShare, just under eight percent of PC users are on Windows 8. What percentage of those use touch? I don’t know, but I could hazard a guess of no more than around 30 percent.
The HP ENVY Recline systems are essentially touchscreen PCs that you can reconfigure so the screen lies nearly flat and can be used like a tablet. Without actually having the benefits of a tablet -- the lightweight portability for example. They can hang off your desk and dangle near your lap too.
I read the press release, I looked at the pictures, and I failed utterly to understand who would want one. It’s like HP realized that sticking touch on a standard desktop PC has limited appeal to the average consumer -- occasionally swiping your screen is fine, doing it all the time is just uncomfortable -- so set out to solve the problem. A problem it had created by adding touch in the first place. And its solution was to let users lie the screen down.
Lenovo’s Yoga PCs are clever, and approach touch by providing consumers with multiple ways of using the devices. I personally haven’t used one for any length of time, but I’ve played around with one in a store, and I liked it. I can see its appeal.
But adding touch to a desktop computer, and then trying to make the inclusion attractive with some weird gimmick? No, no, no.
I’ve compared touch on computers with 3D in movies before and I still view it that way. Avatar was a great 3D movie, but many of the 3D films that followed it -- which were essentially 2D movies with depth bolted on so the cinemas could charge more -- were bloody awful. It’s the same thing with touchscreen. Touch on tablets is essential. Touch on laptops can be useful. Touch on desktops is usually nothing more than a silly gimmick.
I’m not anti-touch -- far from it. The technology definitely has its place, particularly if you’re an app-aholic Windows 8 user. But touch increases the cost of PCs by a significant amount. So suddenly shiny new fast computers which would be pretty affordable, are now beyond the budget of a lot of people. Plus you’ve got the additional costs caused by manufacturers trying to make those touchscreens more comfortable to use. A rectangular box full of PC parts will always be much cheaper than an oddly shaped system designed around a reclining monitor.
In a quest to get people to go and see films at the cinema, movie studios put out 3D films and charged more. But people preferred to go see the 2D versions. In a similar quest to get people to buy new PCs, manufacturers are adding touch where it’s not needed, and pricing those products way beyond what people want to pay.
Asking people to pay an inflated price for a feature they don’t actually want? Well, that’s not going to stop the decline of the PC now is it?