Is This What Future TouchScreen iMacs Will Look Like? [CES 2012]



LAS VEGAS, CES 2012 – Ever since Apple’s patent for a fold-down touch screen desktop computer, the internet has been wondering how the device would look and when Apple would come out with it (if ever). Taking some serious cues from Apple, Lenovo already has a computer that is very similar to the one described in Apple’s recent patent, so we met up with them last night to take a hands-on tour of their new machine and see if it’s something Apple might truly consider doing in the future.

The Lenovo A720 is one of the best touchscreen all-in-one desktop machine that we’ve seen at CES so far. It’s a neat machine sporting a 27-inch display that folds down to adapt to users’ needs. For the most part, Lenovo has built a good machine. The design is simple, but it’s definitely lacking those small details that Apple pulls off effortlessly. We’re still debating whether touchscreen desktops are something the world actually needs, so here are our thoughts on the Lenovo A720 and how Apple might attack the touch-screen desktop scene.

The Good:

  • Touching Your Data – The amount of apps on the Lenovo were limited, but it was still a neat experience to be interacting with computer apps with your fingers on a 27-inch screen.
  • Multi-Functional – Being able to slide the screen down is great, but users will still need the ability to use their desktop in the traditional sense. Raising the screen back up to to look like a standard all-in-one desktop gives the device the functionality it needs to be useable for both touch apps and standard mouse and keyboard work.

The Bad:

  • Stability – The design of the Lenovo machine is fairly good, but by aiming for a minimalist design, it doesn’t appear that stability was their biggest concern. When using the computer folded down into table mode it felt shaky on its hinge. We guarantee this device is going to incur a lot of injuries from owners who don’t fold down the screen with the gentle touch it needs.
  • Messy screen – The last thing I want to do when using my computer is clean my screen every 30 minutes. But with a 27-inch touchscreen desktop, that’s exactly what you have to do. Smudge marks rapidly multiplied across the screen like a virus while we were using it, and even though we started with a freshly cleaned screen, by the time we were done it was littered with an avalanche of smudge marks that completely distract from the beauty of the product.
  • Using Peripherals – Keyboards are obviously not going away anytime soon, so why should the mouse? When using a computer your hands stay in a nearly fixed position throughout the experience, which minimizes the amount of physical work you have to do. Even though Lenovo folds down so that the screen is on the same plane as your keyboard, it still is a pain to move from typing to touching the screen. Connecting a mouse seems like an obvious solution, but doesn’t that contradict the purpose of a touch screen device? No one wants multiple pointer tools for interacting with a computer, we want the least amount possible, which is why touch screen desktops are an interesting solution with a goal to eliminate exterior clutter that detracts from the experience on the screen.

So is Apple going to do something like this? We doubt we’ll see it anytime in the immediate future. Putting aside the hardware and user experience concerns we listed above, Apple will also need to redesign OS X to to be an operating system that offers a unique touch experience. These touchscreen desktops that are floating around CES run a custom GUI on top of Windows 7, which is a pretty bland experience. We have complete faith in Apple’s ability to make the best touch-enabled desktop OS, but do they need to? I love touching my iPad because it’s a personal device that I can cuddle up with on the couch. You can’t do the same with a desktop computer because of their size. We’ll see what the future holds, but right now there are very few indications that point to an impending touchscreen iMac release.

  • iAidan

    NO because apple has said touch screen needs to be horizontal not vertical. 

  • volodoscope

    Apple already has a patent for touch-screen iMac that changes its position like that. These companies just copied before Apple even made one. lol too bad Apple will sue as soon as it comes out.

  • Alberto Hernandez

    Did you even read the article?? Apple’s patent was for an iMac that can be positioned almost completely horizontal for touch screen use. READ next time.

  • Tronjheim79

    How would it prevent unintended inputs from the hand if it’s in its horizontal position?

  • imajoebob

    Touch screens are great for portable devices, and good for a few large screen applications, like presentations and a limited number of games.  But just like a specialized game controller improves the usability of a lot of games, the mouse/trackpad improves the usability of many other apps and most of the internet.  The analog of hand movement matching the digital screen pointer is a natural paradigm.  It works because your natural awareness of your hands allows you to look at the screen and still precisely control your hand movement – a similar operation to steering your car.  Would you want to have to use a “touch windshield” to steer your car?

  • minimalist1969

    Yuck. What a conceptual mess.   You can;t just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall to see what sticks if you expect to produce something great.

    I don’t get the industry’s current obsession with making laptops and desktops more like phones and tablets.   The reason the iPhone (and all the phones that have come since) works so well is that it throws away the desktop paradigm and replaced it with something completely different better suited for these mobile devices form factors and use cases.  Its just as awkward to take what’s worked so well on phones and force them onto a desktop as it was to take the desktop and force it onto the phone.

    A desktop is a desktop and a phone is a phone and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Make them both better in their own ways not by grafting one onto the other.

  • Njideka Okafor

    Have you seen the large screens in the startrek movies? I’m completely think that all of Apple’s moves are more than just create/redesign user experience through the iPOD, iPAD, iPHONE, and all. But more towards redesigning the world of tech somehow. Its crazy ideas somehow come from all those crazy concepts seen in the movies. Its not just touch screen desktops we are talking about here but large surround screens (more like a command and control or something for a graphics studio).

    Question here is who really needs all that screen? That’s what we should be asking. And when you think of it, Lenovo’s touch screen wasn’t a 4inch device but a 27inch screen. I bet somewhere down the line we have devices as seen in the Wall-E animated movie. 

    … least pending when we see the holographic screens with input sensing come to live, the Touch Screens do just fine.
    >>>just my thoughts<<<

  • Alfiejr

    once in a while there will be an advantage to using a touch screen desktop computer compared to just your mouse. but for sustained desktop activity, a mouse/pad is essential. i find Apple’s Magic Mouse to be a great combination. so i don’t ever expect to see a touchscreen iMac. as everyone here notes, you got your iPad for things you want to do with your fingers. then export to other devices as needed.

    whereas kiosks are ideal for a touchscreen UI. you see a lot of these already for public uses of many kinds. but these are not general purpose computers. really just large screen tablets fixed in place running custom software of some kind for a particular purpose. Apple might want to enter that substantial market with enterprise-targeted larger screen iPads with a mounting frame, ready for custom apps. you could turn that into a desktop device too, if anyone wants to bother.