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How to future-proof your hardware for Windows 8

Loyd Case | Sept. 19, 2012
It's like a special consumer-tech corollary of Murphy's law: Your PC will inevitably die just before a new Windows OS is about to ship. You need a new laptop immediately, and you can't wait to buy one that comes with the new OS preinstalled.

For example, Microsoft has released its Touch Mouse, which works like a normal mouse, but has a touch-sensitive surface that will support Windows 8 multitouch gestures. The Wedge Touch Mouse is similarly touch-sensitive, but it's tiny and portable. Since the Wedge Touch works with Bluetooth, it is ready for the coming generation of Windows 8 tablets.

Logitech's 5-inch wireless touchpad fully supports multitouch gestures, and should work with Windows 8 gesture recognition. Large touch surfaces have the potential to emulate the way touch displays work, and can serve as a viable substitute.

On the speculative side, I'd love to see a touch-enabled mousepad, but designers must overcome some obvious technical challenges first, such giving the mousepad the ability to detect when the user is wielding it as a mouse and when the user is employing multiple finger gestures.

Buying a new PC: What you want for Windows 8

Your laptop died. Your desktop PC is on its last legs, as the tell-take grinding sound of the hard drive indicates. How do you proceed if you have no alternative but to buy a new PC today? The relevant considerations differ, depending on whether you need a laptop or a desktop.

Laptops

Few laptops today ship with touch-enabled displays, and there's no guarantee that a convertible tablet-style PC designed for Windows 7 touch will have full ten-point multitouch. Indeed, most of the touch-enabled laptops from the Windows 7 era offer only two-point multitouch. But when Windows 8 launches in October, we'll see a large number of laptops with built-in ten-point multitouch, ranging from traditional clamshell laptops to convertible-style units with detachable displays that can function independently as tablets.

If you need a laptop right now, try to track down a system that has a trackpad with both ten-point touch and edge detection. A touchpad with edge detection is ready for Windows 8. Swiping in will bring up the charms bar, for example. Two systems that are already shipping today with ten-point touch and edge detection are the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A and the Vizio CT14-A2.

Desktops

If you need to replace a traditional, high-performance tower PC, you don't need to be greatly concerned with its specific Windows 8 capability. You should, however, spec your new tower with a DirectX 11.1 GPU and possibly a mouse such as Microsoft's Touch Mouse. On the other hand, if you plan to pick up an all-in-one PC, various systems are already shipping with ten-point multitouch, including the Lenovo ThinkCentre A720.

Bottom line: Consider future usage models

You may not feel inclined to upgrade to Windows 8. But even if that's true, as you plan for upgrades or for buying a new system, it's worthwhile to take steps to ensure a good Windows 8 experience. You may not want Windows 8 today, but eventually you may find a compelling Windows 8 app that draws you to the new OS.

 

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