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Microsoft Research demos simultaneous touch and stylus input on tablets
by Muhammad Jarir Kanji
Microsoft Research often shares with the public new and interesting technologies they've developed. This week, the division has provided us with yet another one.
The video demos a working implementation of a touch screen that allows for input from both a stylus and a finger, simultaneously. Those who use styluses will definitely relish the technology if it ever comes to market, as it's often a little jarring when you need to consciously lift your pen in order to make a quick change or click.
Not only that, but the feature would also open up entirely new means of interaction with the device, making the use of a pen much more immersive, and even allowing for some functionality currently only offered by the Surface Dial, especially in graphic design software. A likely scenario would be one where a user could simultaneously be drawing with one hand, and changing the pen colours and textures with the other. The use of custom widgets designed for the technology are also shown to yield impressive gains in efficiency with the use of everyday applications like Excel and browsers.
This is definitely a feature on my wish list for the next Surface device, whether it's called the Surface Pro 5 or something else entirely, but what we can do at this point is just wait and see what the future holds.
Source: Microsoft Research via OnMSFT
Apple will launch an 'iMac Pro' later this year - but no, it won't have a touchscreen
by Andy Weir
Apple apologized today for having neglected its Mac Pro desktop PCs, which hadn't been updated since they were originally unveiled in December 2013. It also reaffirmed its commitment to the Mac line, and promised that new Pro desktops are in development with a modular design - but they won't be arriving until next year at the earliest.
Frustration over Apple's lack of focus on its 'pro' customers grew last year when Microsoft announced the Surface Studio, a 28-inch all-in-one Windows 10 PC aimed directly at creative professionals. It includes support for the Surface Pen - allowing users to draw directly onto its expansive display - and also supports the Surface Dial, which Microsoft introduced as a "new tool for the creative process".
But now, it seems that Apple is preparing to take the fight back to Microsoft's doorstep with new 'pro' versions of its iMac all-in-one desktop PCs, which will arrive long before the new Mac Pro machines.
"We have big plans for the iMac," Apple's Phil Schiller told BuzzFeed. "We're going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind." He didn't elaborate on exactly what will distinguish these pro models from other iMac versions, nor would he confirm what seems to be the most likely name for the new devices: 'iMac Pro'.
However, Schiller had no qualms about confirming that the new iMac Pro - or whatever it ends up being called - will not have a touchscreen. When asked if it would, he pointedly replied: "No." But he also offered a further explanation to justify that decision:
While Schiller was no doubt referring specifically to the priorities of desktop PC users, his comments are nonetheless amusing, coming five months after Apple added a thin touchscreen display above the keyboard on some of its MacBook Pro notebooks. Apple hailed the new Touch Bar as a breakthrough in usability, while many questioned its usefulness, and pro users complained about the limitations of only including USB Type-C ports on the device, as well as the lack of RAM options above 16GB.
The new pro iMac models will launch later this year. While they won't include full touchscreens, it's possible that Apple will support finger-friendly interactions on its new all-in-ones by introducing a new desktop keyboard with a Touch Bar - but for now, we can only speculate about its plans.
Dell unveils 55- and 86-inch 4K Interactive Touch Monitors, priced from "below $5,000"
by Andy Weir
Dell has announced two large touchscreen displays for the education and business markets. The giant monitors invite obvious comparisons with Microsoft's Surface Hub devices, but unlike those machines, Dell's new Interactive Touch Monitors require a separate PC to be connected to them.
Dell's touchscreens will be offered in 55- and 86-inch configurations, similar in size to the Surface Hub options (55- and 84-inches). But both Dell models will come with 4K (3840x2160px) resolution, whereas Microsoft's 55-inch Hub only has a Full HD (1920x1080px) display. Dell previously offered a 70-inch Interactive Touch Monitor with Full HD resolution.
The Dell monitors support up to 20 simultaneous touch-points, along with 'InGlass' touch technology which the company says "allows for a natural writing experience" using the two passive styluses that are included. Anti-glare and anti-smudge coating on the glass is also part of the package.
In addition to "multiple ports for plug and play connectivity", the monitors can be optionally equipped with a Dell Wireless Module, priced at $199.99. The rear of the monitors also features a slot that can accommodate a Dell OptiPlex Micro PC without a separate power cord.
The Dell 55 4K Interactive Touch Monitor will be priced "below $5,000", while the 86-inch model will cost less than $11,000. Both versions will go on sale on March 30, 2017.
Apple's Phil Schiller: putting touch on Macs is 'absurd'
by Justin Luna
Touch screen devices are becoming very prominent today, from smartphones, tablets, and even desktop computers like the Surface Studio. While Microsoft made a touch-enabled user interface with Windows 8, which was improved when Windows 10 came out, its rival, Apple, stuck with its non-touch experience with the Mac, even after introducing the Touch Bar on its new MacBook.
In a recent interview with Backchannel, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller explained that creating a touch experience for the MacBook 'wouldn't be enough,' saying that doing so could create a divide between the MacBook and iMac.
In line with the topic, he called touch on the desktop a 'disaster.' “Can you imagine a 27-inch iMac where you have to reach over the air to try to touch and do things? he continued, "That becomes absurd.” He emphasized that the iMac's main source of interaction relies on the keyboard, and mouse or trackpad. “You can’t optimize for both,” he says. “It’s the lowest common denominator thinking.”
Schiller admitted that Apple was indeed internally testing out touch capability, but has concluded that it wasn't the right thing to do. "Our instincts were that it didn't, but, what the heck, we could be wrong—so our teams worked on that for a number of times over the years,” says Schiller. "Our instincts were correct.”
Talking about the newly unveiled Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro, he said:
Furthermore, Schiller is optimistic regarding its decision to primarily use USB-C ports. “We’re absolutely more sure than ever that we’ve done the right thing,” he said. Regarding dongles, he said that most people won't need the said accessories. However, those who do can pick up dongles, which recently experienced price cuts.
Moreover, Schiller defended Apple regarding claims that it has lost its innovative edge. He said:
He concludes that their team has made smart choices, and claims that the MacBook Pro is the best notebook that can be made with the greatest technology. With his recent statement that the new device is the 'fastest selling MacBook Pro ever,' how Apple will innovate further in a growing touch-centric tech world in the future will remain to be seen.
Source: Backchannel via Macrumors
By Chris Schroeder
Microsoft had a Touch Bar concept long before Apple
by Chris Schroeder
Microsoft's Adaptive Keyboard concept Apple may have not made any radical redesigns to some of its MacBook lineup during its event last month, but it did throw a bit of a curveball with one new feature of its MacBook Pro series, which helped it become a big hit in its first week of sales. That feature is the new OLED-based contextual function key bar, which Apple calls the "Touch Bar". The new feature is pretty slick, but it's not the first time we've seen this sort of technology.
Back in 2010, Microsoft showed off a demo of what it calls its "Adaptive Keyboard". Made available on YouTube, Microsoft's demo shows a member of the company's Applied Science group playing with a QWERTY keyboard that has a larger touch screen running across the top, with function keys still available for use. That touch screen, like the Touch Bar, could act as a contextual quick-launch bar for certain application functions as well as a way to recall recently-opened documents and photos - basically, a step beyond the capabilities of Apple's Touch Bar.
There are a few key differences between the Adaptive Keyboard and the Touch Bar. First, Microsoft's touch area displays much larger icons/photos, making it easier with which to interact. Second, Microsoft retained physical function keys which, along with the other mechanical keys on the Adaptive Keyboard, change in special circumstances. For instance: lettered keys can change to slide animation tools while editing a PowerPoint presentation displayed on screen. Pretty nifty stuff.
Ultimately, Microsoft decided not to develop the Adaptive Keyboard concept. Instead, the company went hard after touch screens, something Apple has yet to implement into its Mac lineup. However, given Apple's approach to replacing or adding to function keys, perhaps Microsoft will consider revisiting its Adaptive Keyboard concept in the coming years.
Source: The Verge