Windows 8 vs. Mountain Lion: A Desktop Touchscreen Debate

Should a desktop or laptop computer have a touchscreen? The answer lies in the iPad.

In the early 2000s, my editor and I often engaged in friendly banter over the old controversy of nature versus nurture. We were working at a now-defunct magazine called Line56, whose title plays off of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1, Line 56 – “To be, or not to be” – and so such existential lunch conversations seemed apropos.

“Do you have any kids?” my editor asked.

“Yes.”

“Well then, you know the answer already,” he said.

And, of course, he was right.

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This might seem like a forced segue into the growing debate over whether or not an operating system should support touchscreens on laptop and desktop computers, but the nature/nurture debate is fitting. Mac OSX Mountain Lion will support gestures only on the trackpad, while Windows 8 appears to be more aggressive with touchscreen support, according to AllThingsD.

The naysayers of the touchscreen desktop will tell you to reach out to your computer screen and feel the pain in your forearms and fingers. Imagine doing this all day, they’ll say. It’s carpel tunnel syndrome waiting to happen. Besides, the mouse or trackpad is much faster.

The naysayers, though, are wrong.

Microsoft has got it right, and Apple is making its first major slip in years. The touchscreen desktop is the future. How do I know this? Well, let me ask you a question in the same line as my former editor’s question a decade ago.

Do you have an iPad?

Because if you do, well then, you know the answer already.

If you’ve spent time on an iPad, I know you’ve repeatedly and reflexively reached out to the desktop computer screen. The touchscreen is easier, faster and more intuitive to use than searching for a mouse or trackpad in order to manipulate a cursor. We do what is most natural (hint: my former editor’s answer), and the iPad has shown us what that is.

What about the pain in fingers and forearms? Again, if you’ve worked on the iPad, you know that the pain goes away. Do you remember the first time you used a mouse? It was like pulling hairs trying to get the cursor in the right spot, your hand in the shape of a claw all day.

It’s like the first time you tried rock climbing or martial arts or mountain biking. The discomfort is enormous because your muscles aren’t used to these activities.

Yet anyone who has stuck with rock climbing or martial arts or mountain biking knows that the initial discomfort doesn’t last long – and so it is with the touchscreen.

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