by Jacqueline Emigh
At CES 2011, MSI showed off the Butterfly all-in-one (AIO), a concept PC that might have been designed in reaction to criticisms from Apple CEO Steve Jobs and scientific researchers that touchscreens on desktop PCs are too tiring .
On the Butterfly, a 10-inch touchscreen can be slid down and out from its ordinarily vertical position, for comfortable use with touchscreen applications in a slightly tilted horizontal orientation.
MSI also demo’d the Angelow, another concept model, along with three newly introduced AIO PCs in the Wind Top series: the Intel Sandy Bridge-enabled AE2210 and AE2410, and the AE2050, a 20-inch model combining AMD’s E-350 dual-core processor and a Radeon HD 6310 graphics card.
The Angelow concept model features an elegant but basically traditional AIO design, with a thin vertical touchscreen as its centerpiece.
Apple’s Steve Jobs: ?Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical’
The Butterfly, though, drew a lot more attention than the Angelow. It’s probably a good bet that remarks made by Apple’s Jobs helped to spark MSI’s development of the AIO with the sliding screen. Jobs has been vehement in his objections to vertical touchscreen surfaces.
At Apple’s Back to the Mac event in October, Jobs contended that vertical touchscreens cause arm fatigue.
The typical touchscreen PC is “ergonomically terrible,” according to Jobs. “We’ve done tons of testing on this, and it turns out it doesn’t work. Touch surfaces don’t want to be vertical,” he said.
“[The touchscreen] gives a great demo but after a short period of time, you start to fatigue and after an extended period of time, your arm wants to fall off.”
Apple’s iPad is based on a touchscreen, of course. As with any other tablet, though, the iPad’s screen is just about always used as a horizontal surface.
Research on PC touchscreens and arm fatigue stretches back for decades
Jobs, however, is hardly the first to criticize vertically oriented touch-displays, and he isn’t likely to be the last, either.
“Arm fatigue is an important consideration when designing touchscreen workstations. If the touchscreen is to be used frequently or for extended periods of time, the touchscreen must be mounted at an angle that will reduce fatigue,” wrote computer scientists at the University of Maryland, in a paper published way back in 1992 in the journal Advances in Human Computer Interaction.
The authors also cited even earlier research showing that while screens are typically mounted about perpendicular to the desk, the use of a horizontal mounting instead helps to keep users’ arms from tiring out.
Other researchers have found that a touch screen inclination of about 22.5 percent from?[PDF] horizontal works best for preventing arm fatigue.
On MSI’s Butterfly concept PC, the touchscreen essentially pulls double-duty as a vertical desktop display and a somewhat slanted horizontal touch surface.
It’s unknown at this point, though, whether the Butterfly or the Angelow will turn into a real product. MSI hasn’t released any specifications on either of these two PCs.