Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The keyboard and mouse is going nowhere

I see that Bill Gates has been out and about at CES in as Vegas predicting the end of the keyboard and mouse. What that actually means is that he's been promoting the Microsoft Table technology which is... errm... well it's a table which is also a touch screen monitor. It's nothing particularly new or fancy, touch screens have been around for a while, they're expensive and when they break, which they inevitably will, they really do break.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not being all anti-Microsoft against the table. It's a cool gadget there is no doubt about that, and, if you felt like getting me one I would have it like a shot, but let's be serious for a moment whilst also thinking in a crude way. How long after the Table goes to market as a commercially viable alternative will it be before someone sues after the screen broke during sex and they got a lump of glass stuck in their backside?

Yes yes, I know that you might be thinking 'why must he bring it down to sex?' but the point is that a table is a multi-functional physical object already, is bolting on technology something that will catch on that well when someone can use a remote control at a giant Media Centre TV from their armchair without moving, or even a wireless mouse? That brings me on to Gates' original prediction. The keyboard may become less used if voice recognition technology actually becomes brilliantly reliable, but the point is that it will reduce in the personal computer world only.

In the BIG computer world it will not. Not even where Windows runs in server environments. Weight, space and cooling costs are key you see and you don't want to by device that require huge bloody screens to manage, espeically if you're doing remote management. So is the keyboard and mouse going anywhere? Of course it isn't and Gates knows that only too well. He does enjoy making wrong predicitons though, and why not, hels rich after all so he has got some things right.

6 comments:

BrianSJ said...

More generally, there are some interesting Gates/Brown Jobs/Cameron parallels. The first pair have built their empires by dodgy commercial means and have run out of steam; Vista and fiscal arithmetic have similar levels of appeal, while the comeback kids have grand plans.

Rob said...

"It's nothing particularly new or fancy, touch screens have been around for a while, they're expensive and when they break, which they inevitably will, they really do break."

That's not really the best argument, since they've made absolute leaps and bounds in terms of functionality over the last few years, and simultaneously fallen in price considerably.

Just compare the functionality of, say, the iPhone's touch screen with the stylus-operated screen of a PDA from just a year or two ago: it's infinitely, indescribably better. Multi-touch was a big step forward, as will be tactile feedback and all the other advances that are just around the corner.

I wouldn't be so confident as to proclaim the death of the mouse or keyboard (but I'm not in a position, like Gates, where I have to use marketing rhetoric), but it's naïve to claim that touch screens are poor, or that the fact that they've been around for a while somehow means they haven't progressed recently.

The Underdoug said...

Trust you to bring sex into it (do these table PCs have webcams?). People were predicting the demise of PS/2 (mini-DIN 6-way plug) keyboards and mice with the advent of USB some years back (Dell stopped fitting PS/2 ports on their bothermoards), but they're still hanging tough (if there's always a keyboard and mouse, there's always the need for a separate port and it may as well be the cheaper PS/2).

flashgordonnz said...

Eh? How will I use a KVM switch on computers with no ps/2?

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

I don't like touch screens. I know it's old technology and people don't like them but I'm really comfortable with the touch pad together with the Mac shortcuts. Works nicely. The third variant, voice commands, means you have three hands.

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

Keyboards are personal. Aside from yourself, it is the only thing that really knows what you are inputting in to a computer. Can you imagine voice recognition in an Internet café or the office? Yeh, okay...

Then there's the point that- at least to me- they're a lot quicker than handwriting. I can type my name in a third of the time it takes me to write it. So handwriting recognition is out of the window, too...

Finally, they're pretty much reliable. You press the letter 'Q' and you're virtually guaranteed to get it to show up in Word as 'Q'. It will still be a 'Q' when you've lost your voice and it will still be a 'Q' when you've broken your writing hand's wrist.