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.
- 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.
- 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.