There has been a large amount of argument in the media, some of it strident, on the perceived benefits and/or failures of Windows 8, of its dual interfaces, and even some serious predictions that the classic desktop computer interface is on its way to the tech graveyard.
The problem is there seems to be a lot of blather on both sides of the Windows 8 and touch
interface fence. On the side of tradition there are arguments that exhibit a fear of change and an unwillingness to learn new ways of interacting with technology. Those on the side of “new is better” display blindness to how human beings behave and adapt, as well as an inability to perceive how individuals make individual choices.
New operating platforms always meet resistance, naysayers and criticism, along with accolades and staunch support on the opposite end of the spectrum. However, this time around the dramatic change that the platform introduced to the market means that Windows 8 is perhaps getting more than its fair share on both fronts. With Windows 8, Microsoft released an operating system that caters to touch screen technologies, reaffirming their commitment to compete with Android and Apple iOS platforms and expanding that to the desktop with their “Metro” start-up menu. A user jumping from a Windows 8 Phone or Surface tablet would not notice a significant difference in access and usability between their mobile device and a desktop system running Windows 8. But does this kind of platform similarity between different technology platforms actually make sense? Perhaps the question is not whether or not Windows 8 has hit the mark with their new interface, but whether touch screen interfaces as a whole will be the way of the future.
On small screen mobile devices, such as smartphones & tablets, a touch interface has become essential; it’s the fastest, simplest way of completing tasks. But if you have ever lugged around a bluetooth keyboard and/or mouse on trips just to make typing more comfortable, you understand that while touch is great for 90% of what you use your smartphone for, when you have a task such as entering your strong password on a website form, (You DO have a strong password, right? One that includes upper & lower case, letters & numbers & special characters? That requires you to use all 3 virtual keyboards?) touch doesn’t always cut it.
Outside of mobile devices, more and more computers (desktop and laptop alike) are becoming available with touch screen capability. Once a feature primarily used in the hospitality and restaurant industry, touch screen is now a popular choice in all kinds of retail markets as well as for personal use. But outside of the all in one desktop touch systems looking a whole lot more modern and taking up much less space, does it really have any practical functionality? For some, the answer is no. Practically every employee at Retail Management Solutions utilizes more than one monitor when in the office. Reaching over the desk to utilize a touch interface would waste time, energy and efficiency. But for certain applications, like point-of-sale, touch screens can be a welcome addition, allowing quick, centralized functionality for transaction processing. In the pharmacy point-of-sale environment, where space is often at a premium, an all-in-one cash register with touch screen can simplify and streamline the checkout process.
When all is said and done, we aren’t expecting the traditional desktop interface to become obsolete anytime soon. At the end of the day the internal efficiency within any system doesn’t matter if those tasked with using the system can’t easily interact with it to achieve their goals. That’s why at RMS we offer multiple interface options, including touch screen and traditional desktops to meet our customers needs. While historically newer isn’t always better, we’ve found that more and more RMS customers are moving to our all-in-one systems with touch screens to take advantage of the increased efficiency that touch interfaces can offer at the pharmacy cash register. If you don’t embrace new technologies every once in a while, you may very well be left in the dust on the technology highway.
Article co-written by Greg Howard, a Senior Support Analyst for Retail Management Solutions.