When Bill Gates gave a speech last winter and hinted that the need for a keyboard was going to be diminishing, the writer in me scoffed, but I should learn to take Bill’s little hints a bit more seriously because the next version of Windows (aka Windows 7) is going to feature the same touch-screen functionality found on the Microsoft Surface, the monster table computer introduced last year (and parodied here).
Microsoft gave a preview of Windows 7 this week and using a touch screen, you can do the same types of things as shown here in this Macrumors.com post including sorting and editing pictures. As though this weren’t enough to send keyboard fans screaming for the exits, just this week the One Laptop Per Child Foundation (OLPC) announced the next generation laptop for the world will feature a dual screen absent a conventional keyboard. The feeling is that a sealed laptop without a keyboard makes more sense in impoverished areas where dust and water seepage through the keyboard could represent a serious issue.
As a writer, one who makes his living tapping the keys of the keyboard, I’m wondering how will I pursue my craft without my trusty keyboard or how students will type papers for that matter? Sure, you can edit and sort pictures with your finger. It actually makes sense and is more practical than a keyboard or even a mouse. In fact, most mouse-intensive work could with some creativity be replaced by a touch-screen functionality, but when it comes to writing (or even coding), I don’t see anything replacing the keyboard anytime soon.
Of course, the preeminent touch-screen device of the day is the Apple iPhone. The touch functionality is amazing and well-designed, but when I tested the iPhone last year, I found the touch screen keyboard difficult to manipulate (I was forever tapping the key next to the one I wanted; a real issue when entering a hidden 128-bit encryption key to get onto my wireless network). As great as the touch-screen functionality is on the iPhone, the fact is I need a keyboard, and so far at least, I haven’t found an external one for the iPhone.
I’m guessing keyboard junkies like myself can take a deep breath. Sure, the keyboard and mouse may take on a lesser role as the operating systems and the way we interact with the computer evolves, but whether it’s an infrared or folding (or whatever incarnation), the keyboard takes, I just don’t see the keyboard going away for awhile. Of course, you may look at this blog entry in five or ten years and laugh at how short-sighted I was back in 2008, but for the foreseeable future at least, the keyboard lives, I tell you. It lives!