I think Sean Hollister gets it right in The Verge article Surprisingly, touchscreen laptops don’t suck. In short, Windows 8 challenges the idea that they do not work, and proves that they do.
The argument against touchscreen laptops and desktops has always been Gorilla Arm, the idea that users will get tired holding their arms up in the air for longer interactions, they will look and feel like Gorillas.
But the theory of Gorilla Arm only makes sense when you consider it for longer interactions (for example typing or drawing). Hollister, in his article, points out that Microsoft as proven that for shorter interactions (launching, navigating, selecting), touchscreens work great. And I agree.
Aside: If you have ever purchased tickets at a JR counter in Japan, you would have seen additional proof that touchscreens work. Navigation and simple data entry is handled using touch, with the keyboard being used for more complex interactions. Most of the time, though, the operator’s hands are resting down. No Gorilla Arms.
So back to Apple. To launch an app on my Macbook Pro, I need to move my hands away from the keyboard to the trackpad, move the mouse down to the dock, then click. With a touchscreen, I could just tap the icon and get back to the keyboard. In Launchpad.app, OS X already has an excellent touch interface for application launches, the same proven UI that is on the wildly successful iPad.
OS X, with it’s fixed icon sizes also is already closer to being touch enabled than Windows. Increase the resolution on Windows and the icons (and touch targets) shrink, which is why the current Windows 8 desktop mode sucks so badly. But if you increase the resolution on OS X, the fonts, icons and touch targets remain the same size, they just look better.
We’ll still have our keyboards, mice and touchpads, they are the best interfaces these days for longer interactions. But it’s far easier to tap or swipe the screen for shorter interactions.
Apple, please make the next generation Macbook Pro’s with touch screens to enable us to launch, close, switch desktops and select using our fingers. Windows 8 has proven that Steve Jobs was wrong about this. It just makes sense and we now know that it works.