Global production of touch screen modules for use in computers will soar to 117.9 million units in 2014, up from 15.8 million in 2010, iSuppli predicts.
“ISVs will be key partners in the touch revolution,” said Rhoda Alexander, director of monitor research for iSuppli. “With intense competition flaring up among the ISVs to develop the next, must-have touch application, the battle will help to promote the sales of touch screendevices—not only in the consumer realm but also in the critical commercial segment. Whether the applications are developed for Windows 7, Linux, Mac, or the wealth of mobile operating systems, the ISVs will drive much of the demand for touch applications.”
As Apple Inc. has demonstrated first with the iPhone and iPod—and now with the iPad—content is key in touch-centric products.
For their part, operating system providers are providing more of the building blocks that help incorporate touch applications, which in turn is driving ISV competition.
The most popular tablet solutions may not be those that offer the widest doors to almost everything that is available on the Web, Alexander said, but rather those that offer entry into exclusive doors, or applications, that are only available through that particular brand or operating system. The initial popularity of the iPad is a good example of this approach, with its Apple-specific development effort. As competitors introduce products, expect to see more vendor specific application development, pairing the appeal of the device with device specific applications, Alexander added.
As vendors struggle to differentiate their products, content—as well as the way the device accesses such content—will prove to be as critical as the product’s industrial design.
Corporate investment in extra options, such as touch, tends to be linked to productivity. For touch sales to increase dramatically in this sector, vendors must work closely with ISVs to develop solutions that focus on productivity improvements for business customers. Hewlett-Packard Co., one of the market leaders in all-in-one touch solutions, has worked closely with vendors—such as Priscilla Boston—to develop programs that, for instance, allow users to move through its wedding gown selection and change the colors of the dress with a touch.
Some of the ISVs for corporate usage are likely to develop across platforms, ranging from programs initially developed for more mobile devices, to those that migrate into corporate and desktop usage, as users look to link the devices and move more seamlessly from one to the other.
The Right Touch
ISVs also are expected to play a major role in promoting new types of touch screen technologies that are suited for compelling applications.
The ease of touch has been a major consideration and was, no doubt, a key factor in Apple’s selection of projected capacitive technology for its products, Alexander noted. The simple light touch needed to activate the touch option was a primary consideration in the choice of this technology, allowing users to easily slide an image across the screen. Such an approach contrasts with the firmer touch required for resistive screens.
In the future, however, the initial advantage proffered by projected capacitive technology may be offset by one of the advantages of digital resistive touch solutions: the ability to detect pressure and provide different responses, depending on the intensity of the touch. Much of the success of digital resistive will depend on application development and on how quickly ISVs move to incorporate additional touch options, such as pressure detection into their software design. Just a few of the possible future uses of pressure detection might include gaming, music, art and even business.
In business-oriented, resistive touch applications, ISVs could build multi-layer functionality into single-button solutions by allowing users to change the response—depending on how they touch the button. A light touch may open the initial menu, while a heavier touch allows the user to drill down to sub-menus.
“As software vendors explore the possibilities inherent in pressure sensitivity, such options are likely to become an increasingly important differentiator in the portable segment of the touch-screen-enabled PC market,” Alexander said. Favored solutions could emerge, such as the Digital Resistive touch screen from Stantum, and the Interpolating Force Sensitive Resistance (IFSR) technology from Touchco.
ISVs are likely to play a critical role in regional preferences as well. Lenovo, among others, will attempt to build on its strength as a regional leader in China via the introduction of its upcoming LePad tablet. The LePad is designed to run a host of regional applications and work with local ISV developers crafting new applications specific to the device.