Technology that changes how people give commands to computers could make touch-based PCs more popular and transform the traditional desktop into a "room computer" in coming years, a Microsoft executive said Wednesday.
The touch-controlled tablet PCs Microsoft has long promoted could see their "day of glory" in the next few years as people get used to controlling computers just as they would a touchscreen phone, Craig Mundie, Microsoft's research head, said in an interview.
"The cost and weight of that class of computer is now dropping," Mundie said. "The ability to comfortably hold them and operate them with your other hand will just be a lot better than it has been in the last few years, when they were still a bit too bulky."
Microsoft's Windows 7 OS will offer touch and multitouch control options suited for tablets.
Touchscreens, along with input methods such as speech or gestures, could also become common in desktops as computer displays expand to tabletops and walls, Mundie said. Such a change would draw on rising computing power, improving display technologies and Microsoft research in areas like voice recognition and machine vision, he said.
Any surface in a living room or office could be used as a computer screen in several years, said Mundie. An office worker might, for example, initiate a phone call by speaking or gesturing to a whiteboard or physical desk surface with an embedded display. The worker could freely write or project images on either screen.
"The desktop machine will evolve into a completely different category," Mundie said. "I tend to think of it more as the room computer, as opposed to the desk computer."