If the future is ‘One Microsoft,’ should you invest in a touchscreen monitor?

If 'One Microsoft' is the future and Windows 8 was designed for touch, are you jumping into the touchscreen monitor market, using a touchscreen overlay kit on a standard PC monitor, or going big to turn any surface into a touchscreen?

Was the death of Windows RT hinted at by Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft's executive vice president of devices and studios? During the UBS Technology Conference, Larson-Green stated, "We have the Windows Phone OS. We have Windows RT and we have full Windows. We're not going to have three." Yet her statement didn't end there as she added, "We do think there's a world where there is a more mobile operating system that doesn't have the risks to battery life, or the risks to security. But, it also comes at the cost of flexibility. So we believe in that vision and that direction and we're continuing down that path."

She started her presentation by talking about "One Microsoft," which according to ZDNet, "means one Windows. But it's not the Windows you might think. The user interface doesn't actually matter (as Microsoft's partnership with Xamarin shows). What matters is the underlying programming model, the APIs and the libraries that developers use to build their apps. With a common development model, Microsoft can deliver a common OS kernel for all its devices, with a common development environment - but with different device format-specific user interfaces."

If Microsoft continues along the lines of Windows 8, however, then the user interface does matter if you don't have a touch-screen enabled device. After all, Windows 8 was designed for touch input. Larson-Green explained that touch was the "real invention" that "changed and created a new revolution, which is why in Windows 8 we became touch-first in our thinking to try to -- we knew touch was going to be a big deal."

Millions of people use touch for mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, but what if you still use a desktop and monitor? Will you go with an all-in-one PC or opt for a touchscreen monitor?

Prices continue to drop on touchscreen monitors, but some people opt for touch-screen overlay kits to convert PC monitors to touchscreen monitors. The kits, however, can cost almost as much as a traditional monitor and those monitors are unlikely to be adjustable for different angles. It depends what you do on your PC and how long you'd need to awkwardly hold out your arms to touch the screen. Touch-screen monitors are adjustable for varying angles and heights. There are also multi-touch capabilities to consider, as some touch-screens can handle much more than 10-point finger input.

When Fox News showed a 55-inch Windows 8 touchscreen, many people compared it to giant iPads, but it was actually a Microsoft PPI product.

"Microsoft's PPI business comes from its acquisition of Perceptive Pixel in July 2012," reported TechCrunch. "Microsoft, through that acquisition, is now an OEM of some of the largest touchscreens in the world; PPI displays also come in an 80-inch variant." If you don't have about $7,000 for a 55-inch touchscreen, then Microsoft and Ubi Interactive are working to make almost any surface an interactive touch-screen.

Ubi Interactive has a "goal to make the world a more interactive place," reported the Kinect for Windows blog. "By making it possible to turn any surface into a touch screen, we eliminate the need for screen hardware and thereby reduce the cost and extend the possibilities of enabling interactive displays in places where they were not previously feasible-such as on walls in public spaces."

The Verge explained, "The basic app will support up to 45-inch display sizes, with options to purchase professional ($379) and business licenses ($799) that provide 100-inch support. There's only one single touch point on the basic version, but a business version provides two, and the enterprise edition ($1,499) supports up to 20. The app only works on a Windows 8 PC, but as you'd expect it fully supports Microsoft's touch-friendly 'Metro' environment."

PCMag added that "users will also need to purchase a Kinect for Windows sensor, which sells for $249.99. But when you consider that for just a little more than $500 you can begin using your own Minority Report-style display, suddenly the entire package seems like a bargain."

While bloggers argue if Larson-Green's statement and talk of "One Microsoft" definitely implies the death of RT or not, it seems important to note that she also said, "Just as the mouse was an invention, touch was an invention, there will be the next new way to interact. And that's why we've been focusing on natural user interface for a while, working on that."

So as Microsoft continues to pound home the evils of staying with Windows XP, enterprises need to decide not only if they are going with Windows 8, but if they will get ahead of the game by investing in touchscreens.

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