apple touchscreen

Microsoft, Apple, TechCrunch, Archos, and a fair number of other companies are throwing some weight behind the tablet concept. And I’ve been pretty skeptical for one major reason: text input. The idea of a handheld device without a physical keyboard for surfing the web, reading eBooks, and watching video seems like a good idea, until it comes time to write an email, leave a blog comment, or even enter a URL. You can do those things with handwriting recognition or on-screen keyboards, but it’s typically not a very comfortable or efficient experience on a tablet style devices with a 7 inch or larger display.

So every time a new rumor about the CrunchPad, Apple Tablet, or Microsoft Courier emerges, I kind of yawn and say to myself, “yeah, like that’ll take off.”

But now I’m starting to think that the Apple Tablet might actually have a shot, if it uses new technology revealed in a recent patent filing. AppleInsider found information detailing a touchscreen that would allow for a combination of “typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting.” It would detect all ten fingers placed on a touchsreen. And it would be able to recognize and ignore input from your palms.

In other words, you could have a fully functional on-screen keyboard that you can use with 10 fingers much the way you would use a physical keyboard.

My first thought is that it would be hard to type on a screen without the tactile feedback you get from an actual keyboard. But that’s what people said about the iPhone’s on-screen thumb keyboard. And iPhones are selling like hotcakes. Actually, it’s probably hotter. When was the last time you ordered a hotcake?

The patent spells out a number of different ways to interact with the device, including tapping to simulate a mouse click, or using multitouch gestures to manipulate objects on the screen. The display could be adjusted to work with different hand sizes, and users wouldn’t need a mouse or keyboard since everything would be built into the screen.
Of course, it’s possible that these features won’t be built into the upcoming Apple Tablet, but are instead intended for a new input device for Apple computers. But it sounds to me like Apple is trying to do for text entry on tablet style devices what it did for text input on smartphones by reinventing the way we interact with touchscreen displays.

And that could just make the Apple Tablet take off in a way that previous touchscreen tablets haven’t.

On the other hand, I’m still skeptical about the idea of typing on a virtual keyboard covering a display resting on a tablet. Sitting in an office chair and looking at a monitor while typing a way on a keyboard is ergonomically challenging enough. I shudder to think about the back and neck pain associated with hunching over a tablet sitting on the desk trying to type a document while looking at the on-screen display at the same time.

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12 replies on “Apple Tablet could have an on-screen, multitouch keyboard”

  1. It is necessary to consider as the first reason of a back pain inconvenient keyboard QWERTY. What do you know about the keyboard INTENSIVE?

  2. I’m not sure. Speed typists usually don’t look down while they type. Of course, this is in large part because their fingers can feel where the keys are, but I think that, with an instantly adjustable FingerWorks-like screen, the point is that, no matter where your hands are, the right keys are always where you need them to be. Put another way, so long as the OS can always deduce where each finger is, it can map out the other appropriate keys under your hands as needed.

    1. Right… you don’t look *down* at the keyboard. You look *up” at the
      display so you can see your words appear on the screen and correct for
      any typos, see incoming IM messages, etc. Theoretically you could
      close your eyes and type but you’re probably asking for a world of

      I’m not saying it’s impossible for this concept to fly. I’m just
      skeptical. And until I have a chance to see/try it for myself I’ll
      probably remain so.

      1. I suppose it depends on your background with keyboard use –

        Keyboards where originally part of a transcription device;
        Eyes where for looking at and reading the input material while typing.
        The right hand was the one you used to operate the carriage return, not the mouse.
        (The reason for the tactile markers on F and J – hand positioning feedback)

        Typing classes included tests with a either a blindfold or a hood over the
        machine. Just to break people of the habit of looking at anything other
        than the input being transcribed.

        But keyboards are rarely used for transcription input these days (decades?).
        Even so, I have to agree with Brad;
        But my reason is because of the missing tactile and audible feedback.

  3. What is someone looking at when they bang out comments on their iPhone?

  4. Why be hunched over the tablet? Most folks aren’t hunched over their regular keyboards. Plus, how many keyboards can instantly turn into something else, a multimedia player or secondary computer screen? No, the excitement about tablets (and surfaces) is much bigger. Think iPhone diversity + Enterprise-D console space.

    1. That’s because you can look up at your screen while typing on your
      keyboard. What exactly will you be looking at when you type on a
      touchscreen tablet with the keyboard built into the display?

      1. I’m banging these comments out on my iPhone right now. Doesn’t seem to be a problem.

        1. Right, but that’s because you have a thumb keyboard so you can hold
          the iPhone with both hands and type away while it’s in front of your

          Imagine if it had a ten inch display and was too large to hold with
          one hand on either end and reach every key on the keyboard with your
          thumbs. You’d have to put it down on a table to type – and if this
          patent is correct, that’s the idea. You’d use it like a normal
          keyboard, with the tablet placed on a table or lap. And that means
          you’d have to look *down* to see the display.

          1. The holding part is another big thing — using a tablet means you have no particular reason to be sitting at a desk.

            If you’re walking around, how are you touch typing at all?

            A thumb keyboard for a phone is easy — you have the rest of your hand to hold the device. But on a largish device, you could only reach a handful of keys with your thumbs.

            The only way I can see this making sense is if the tablet is a wireless input device for a separate computer.

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