Microsoft to add multitouch interface to Windows 7

Microsoft says the new technology, which is expected to arrive in late 2009, will work with existing touch screens.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
3 min read

CARLSBAD, Calif.--In an interesting but perhaps unsurprising move, Microsoft plans to add multitouch interface to Windows 7, CNET News.com has learned. The interface will be shown in just a few minutes as part of Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates' keynote at the D6 event here.

Update: Ballmer says it will come in late 2009. Corporate VP Julie Larson-Green demonstrated the multitouch technology, painting with several fingers at the same time to show how it can process not just touch, but multiple simultaneous input.

"It's much faster to do certain tasks than using a mouse," Larson-Green said. She also showed rotating photos by pinching and rotating, much like Microsoft's surface or Apple's iPhone.

Microsoft had previously hinted that the touch gestures would find their way into Windows. In an interesting twist though, the new technology will work with existing touch screens, Microsoft said. They showed it running on an existing Dell laptop.

A Microsoft blog with a demo can be found here and I've added in Microsoft's video as well at the end of the post.

Analysis and context: I took three major things away from the multitouch demo.

1. Multitouch is going to be ubiquitous. And by this I don't just mean on every Windows machine. I also expect Apple to have a similar feature on its computers, and quite possibly ahead of Windows 7 final ship date.

2. We're going to see touch on a lot more machines ahead of Windows 7. I expect this will help convince PC makers to include touch screens even in Vista machines so they can be "7-proof." Touch can come in many forms. We've already seen that the laptop's touch pad can prove to be a cost-effective spot for gesture sensitive touch, and I think we will see other interesting gesture recognition approaches beyond just making the full screen touch sensitive.

3. User interfaces are a key selling point in Microsoft's No. 1 longterm Windows goal--making the OS matter. Windows is not just under attack from Apple. It's also under attack from forces that threaten to make the OS less relevant, whether it's browser-based applications or (pardon the phrase, boss) Web operating systems.

Two such efforts are going to be on display here at D: G.ho.st (which presents Wednesday) and Glide, which presents on Thursday.

I spoke with CEO Donald Leka, who talked about how Glide allows documents to be shared across devices, such as a Mac user trying to share a QuickTime file with a mobile phone user that happens to have RealPlayer or Windows Media on their device. The company's support for the iPhone, in particular, has been a boon, Leka said.

"The iPhone is probably the best thing that ever happened," he said.

As is often the case, things were a little less compelling when it comes to the business model and the drivers that will push someone to one of these efforts over another. Leka said the company can make money off commerce and by selling premium subscriptions on top of the 5GB of free storage Glide provides.

Video: Multi-Touch in Windows 7

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