Yesterday I spent the afternoon at Croma checking out the new range of Win 8 laptops, ultrabooks and AIOs (All in One's). It was great to see that the price of Ultrabooks has dropped to levels where normal mortals can actually consider buying them - under Rs. 50,0000. And I was happy to see some international launches have reached our shores at reasonable prices - the Win RT Lenovo Ideapad Yoga at Rs.50,000 and the Asus Vivobook at just Rs.40,000. Both these devices have touch screens and physical keyboards to interact with Windows 8 in the way you prefer. I tried performing some basic tasks like creating a presentation, browsing or running a program and I came away with mixed feelings about the whole touch and type concept.
When I got my first touchscreen phone, I complained (correctly) that my texting would reduce because it's a pain to type on the screen compared to a physical keyboard. It's true that I write less, and rely more on apps to do the work for me. But in the process, I have developed a comfort with touch interfaces. The intricacies of operating a QWERTY keyboard have vanished from my memory and I am hard put to handle my friend's BlackBerry Curve. I keep jabbing at the screen foolishly as though it would accomplish something.
But I still love, love the feel of a good keyboard on a laptop. It's the second biggest factor I look at, after price, when buying a work laptop. My fingers can fly on a good keyboard in a way that makes me completely happy, like right now as I am composing this post. And I feel creative, productive and pleased with life when my keyboard keeps up with my thoughts.
So we have established that I have learned to live with touch interfaces and love good keyboards. But on separate devices, and for separate purposes. Marrying the two on a single device is not such a great idea. And to introduce the combination on a device that I rely on for work? That's a really bad idea.
Over years of using a laptop for productivity, I have learnt and mastered my own shortcuts, tricks and unconscious ways of working that save time and make my work easy. I will admit that I am reluctant to change the way I work. I can change the way I browse on a phone or a tablet - it is a leisure activity and I am ready to experiment. When I change the way I work, it costs me time and puts me lower on the learning curve and I am not so ready to trade this off for what Microsoft considers as the future experience.
It feels like having a split personality when I am typing and suddenly I have to touch the screen to do something. It slows me down and confuses my mind and breaks the liquid smooth linear action of completing a task. I completely understand that it's nice to have a two-in-one device etc. But I question whether this type of convergence is necessary. I question why we have to unlearn so much. I maintain that in a fragmented era of multiple devices, it is important to understand the core purpose of the device and design to meet that purpose best. I am not sure if hybrid devices will suceeed.
I will eventually move to a Win 8 PC and try to figure it out. But I am viewing that development with apprehension, despite being wooed by some beautifully designed products like the Dell XPS 12 convertible and the Asus Vivobook.