Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Windows 7 Touch or Microsoft Surface

I have received a number of questions around the topic of touch on Microsoft Surface and Windows 7.
I have seen a variety of feedback from client and developers along these lines:
  • Surface doesn't have a web browser, I must have a web browser
  • Surface is just Windows with touch
While the work I have done with After-Mouse and nsquared has led to a web browser control being built for Surface, typically a user trying to browse the internet is not looking for a multi-user, social, computing experience and Windows 7 is much more suited to provide a single user experience. Browsing the internet (the way we do today with modern browsers) is a single user experience, you cannot have two users clicking in the same browser at the same time and expect to get meaningful results. At best a browser can provide an experience for multiple users with a driver-passenger model of engagement. One person is the driver and is the only user interacting directly with the browser, the other participants are passengers, observing the interactions and potentially providing verbal guidance to the driver.
The questions to ask are:
What is the client trying to achieve?
What is their vision? A good place to start is to understand the usage scenarios they are hoping for.

If the objective is really to get multiple people engaged then Microsoft Surface provides a far superior solution. For a single user touch experience go for Windows 7.
You should also note that while the touch is getting better in Windows 7, the shell in Windows 7 is not designed to be 100% driven by touch, whereas the Microsoft Surface Shell is designed for touch from the ground up. With Windows 7, touch enhances the mouse and keyboard interactions. With Surface touch replaces the mouse and keyboard interactions.