The truth about touchscreen PCs
Nivedan Prakash examines the prospects of touchscreen
PCs in the Indian market
technology has been sweeping the consumer electronics world, especially mobile
phones where every leading smartphone vendor has several models that support
this technology with varying degrees of efficacy. Of late, we have begun to
see touchscreen technology being used in PCs with brands such as HP and Asus
launching touch-enabled products.
Although this technology has quite successful on the mobile phone front, a question
mark remains about its suitability for desktop PCs. [Or even notebooks for that
matter. In the case of notebooks touch computing is making its
presence felt through touchpads that support input from more than one finger
to offer iPhone-like experiences. There will be many more laptop users taking
advantage of touch in this manner than through touchscreens. Editor]
Some industry experts believe that touchscreen PCs have not picked up in the
Indian market but at the same time companies like HP and Asus claim that sales
of these products are growing, albeit gradually.
touch is fast becoming a common way of directly interacting with software
and devices, we see the prices of these products coming down, thereby
- Ketan Patel
Country Manager Consumer Desktop PCs, HP India
PCs are not much of a sales driver. In India, desktop PCs have always
been an inexpensive product category and consumers do not want to pay
beyond a particular price point"
- Diptarup Chakraborti
Principal Research Analyst,
According to Gartner, touchscreen PCs have been used as a
technology differentiator for branding by companies such as HP. These products
are displayed prominently in showrooms and they get a lot of attention from
buyers. However, the same buyers end up buying lower-priced products in most
Diptarup Chakraborti, Principal Research Analyst-Gartner, said, Touchscreen
PCs have not picked up in India. Sales of these PCs have been negligible, less
than 0.1% of the total desktops sold annually are touchscreen based. The reason
is that these PCs are expensive; they are priced at around Rs. 90,000. You can
get a good desktop for Rs. 30,000. Therefore, it would take a lot for consumers
to pay three times the cost of a normal desktop. Even the configuration is not
all that different from that of a mid-range desktop.
He added that Indian consumers and companies both see desktop PCs as relatively
inexpensive products and they do not want to pay beyond a particular price for
Vinnie Mehta, Executive Director, MAIT, concurred, When
you look at a commoditized product, then touchscreen PCs clearly do not fall
in that category. People use them for special purposes, such as in ATMs or kiosks
etc. Moreover, they are definitely more expensive than conventional desktop
Vinod Kumar, CTO of Novatium feels that Indian companies have primarily deployed
touchscreen PCs in kiosks, ATMs and point of sale terminals. In the computer
space, some high-end laptops support his feature but the number of people using
these devices is limited.
That being said, HP and Asus are pumping touchscreen-based PCs into the market.
For them, touch is rapidly becoming a common interface for software and devices.
Touch-enabled surfaces are popping up everywhereincluding laptop touchpads,
cell phones with touchscreens, remote controls, and GPS devices amongst others.
Ketan Patel, Country Manager, Consumer Desktop PCs, HP India,
said, We are looking closely at the touch segment and have introduced
top-of-the-line product offerings such as the HP TouchSmart PC and the Tx2 Multi-Touch
Notebook. The HP TouchSmart PC is doing pretty well in India. As a touch-enabled
all-in-one desktop PC, the TouchSmart IQ500 Series PC has relevance not only
for the style conscious but also for technologically savvy consumers. Its capacity
to reinvent the PC experience through its intuitive touchscreen interface that
suggests the potential for use as an educational tool for both children and
senior citizens or retirees who are first-time PC users. Its relevance also
extends to the retail space where it can offer an interactive touch-based catalogue
to enhance retail experiences.
Stanley Wu, Country HeadNotebooks, Eee PC and Eee Top,
ASUS India, opined that sales of touchscreen PCs are picking up in India. This
is a growing segment with many vendors entering the market. Sales should pick
up once the market matures. The touch interface is one of the most intuitive
and natural interfaces to use and we are receiving good response for our Eee
Top PC, which is a touchscreen PC targeted at home users and first-time users,
added Wu. The Eee Top is priced at Rs 44,000 but while the price is closer to
that of a conventional PC, it is built around Intels Atom processor so
you can think of it as a desktop PC equivalent of a netbook.
HP referred to a Gartner study, which stated that the global capacitive touchscreen
and touch button controller segment is projected to hit 1.3 billion units by
2012. As far as the Indian market is concerned, Gartner says that the total
number of desktops sold in the country per quarter is about 1.5 to 1.6 million.
However, the sales of touchscreen PCs would not exceed 500 units per quarter.
From the margins to the mainstream
biggest hindrance is the price point. These PCs are significantly more
expensive than conventional PCs with TFTs or CRTs. Today product categories
are heading towards miniaturization. You will not find touchscreen PCs
in that space"
- Vinnie Mehta
Executive Director, MAIT
7 would definitely help, but ultimately it all comes down to how useful
the touchscreen PC is for a consumer. We are used to using a mouse. Actions
like double click would always be trickier in the touchscreen world"
- Vinod Kumar
At this point of time, we cant argue that the touchscreen
desktop PC category is moving from the margins into the mainstream. This technology
is a mainstream one in the mobile world, thanks to the iPhone and competing
products such as the N97. In the case of PCs, the touch mechanism has not been
fine-tuned to the extent that phone manufacturers have. As of now, PC touch
interfaces are quite rudimentary and mimic the actions that can be accomplished
with a mouse.
Chakraborti commented that this technology could not enter the mainstream until
prices fell or touchscreen technology itself becomes widely used. If it
remains a niche product category, where the input is happening through keyboard
and mouse, I dont see it becoming mainstream. As of now, at least for
three to four quarters, I dont see the touchscreen based products entering
the mainstream of the Indian market, he said.
HP and Asus disagree and believe that this technology will
enter the mainstream soon. With demand for touch-enabled products surging globally,
manufacturers worldwide are taking this trend seriously. With the increase in
demand for touch-enabled products ranging across cell phones, MP3 players, GPS
receivers, computers, and the extensive research going behind touch technology,
the prices of these products are bound to go down, providing further impetus
Wu added, The touchscreen PC market is moving into the mainstream and
the main reason for this is increased awareness amongst consumers about this
technology. Customers today want a product that is unique and offers them an
edge over the usual products in the market. Such customers prefer touchscreen
PCs. Also, the market for high-end products in India is steadily increasing
and this has also led to touchscreen PCs moving into the mainstream.
Falling LCD prices, advances in technology and the availability of touch-ready
applications are all factors that can have a positive impact on this product
One of the limiting factors with regard to touchscreen technology is the comfort
level that users have with it. Using your fingers to input data or control a
phone is one thing; using your fingers on your PCs screen is quite another.
Even if prices fall below Rs. 40,000, users would still be uncomfortable buying
such products. [Witness the fate of the much-heralded Tablet PC that, despite
being the brainchild of Bill Gates, failed miserably. People tend to be quite
conservative in learning how to use new methods of input or even old ways with
new devices as in the case of tablets where Gates didnt factor in that
a generation had grown up using PCs and was more familiar with using keyboards
than writing by hand. Editor]
When you move away from familiar mouse technologysuddenly the hands are
in a different plane (vertical rather than the familiar horizontal). Recognition
of movements to identify writing and making that a form of input is important.
The biggest hindrance is the price point. Touchscreen
displays for PCs are significantly more expensive than conventional LCD monitors
are. This is the single biggest challenge that this category faces as of now.
Product categories are heading towards miniaturization. Touchscreen PCs are
not found in that space, asserted Mehta.
This apart, most consumers may not find touchscreen PCs different from their
regular laptops or desktop PCs, and the technology is unlikely to spread beyond
mobile phones. One would have to agree with the statement that high costs and
limited functionality have kept touchscreen PCs out of the mainstream, leaving
them limited to niche applications.
Asus, as a company, feels that this statement is true to a certain extent; however,
one must understand that every new segment at its inception offers a niche product
with limited functionality. A case in point is that of mobile phones eight years
back, they were expensive, bulky devices only capable of making calls and people
saw them as a niche product. Nowadays, practically everyone has a mobile phone
that has basic multimedia functions and a camera at a fraction of the price
of the cell phones of yesteryear. Similarly, touchscreen PCs could eventually
percolate to the bottom end of the market offering functionality at an affordable
Since touchscreen PCs are still a niche category, the cost of these products
is comparatively high as compared to products without this technology. Since
touch is fast becoming a common way of directly interacting with software and
devices, we see the prices of these products coming down, thereby stimulating
demand, opined Patel.
Some growth drivers for touchscreen PCs in the India market are the lifestyle
segment, tech savvy users, people looking for an attractive home computing solution
and first-time users both kids and the elderly who find a touch interface less
intimidating than the conventional keyboard and mouse.
Microsofts Windows 7 operating system will act as a trigger for touchscreen
proliferation in the PC segment. This will be the first Windows operating system
optimized for multi-touch features.
Windows 7 would definitely help, but ultimately it is the usefulness of
the touchscreen that would help. The mouse is something that we are used to
and actions like double click would always be trickier in the touchscreen world,
Apparently, recent advances in technology including improved picture quality
and better sensitivity to touch, combined with falling LCD prices, are increasing
the viability of touchscreens. Industry experts believe that rapidly falling
touch panel prices, as more products enter the market, should accelerate the
Crystal ball gazing
Touchscreen technology will end up on many consumer products as it offers a
natural interface. We will see more products featuring this technology and the
prices of touchscreen products will also drop. There will also be increased
functionality in these products and their market share will grow over time.
However, we will have to wait and watch to see if all of this will be true of
the PC segment as well.
Touchscreen PCs could prove useful in delivering the benefits of ICT to rural
Vendors are touting touch as the next big thing in technology and consumers
can look forward to many innovations in the future. However, whether it would
prove to be a popular product category remains to be seen.