HP Announces Touch-centric Software Development Program

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HP’s TouchSmart line of all-in-ones has pushed the boundaries as far as touch-capable software goes, but the company can only do so much on its own.  It’s a common motto in the technology industry that software sells hardware, and HP is hoping to beef up the selection of software available for both its notebook and desktop touch products.

Centric to the new development push is a new website: TouchSmartDevZone.com, which is a rebranding of the third-party TouchSmartCommunity website. The updated website now hosts an SDK put together by HP to guide software developers in creating new applications.  The program and accompanying SDK, which includes code samples docs and APIs, is free. 

One of HP’s big updates to the new TouchSmart line was not the hardware so much as the software.  In addition to upgrading the base operating system from Windows Vista to Windows 7, the TouchSmart skin that sits on top of Windows including a number of new applications, most famously from companies like Twitter, Netflix and Hulu.

The new development movement isn’t limited to consumer PC, however, as HP also produces commercially-oriented TouchSmart PCs as well as touch-capable digital signage.  Given the market potential for commercial applications, there’s little doubt that HP, for the time being, is probably hoping software developers and firms will aim to create solutions for business more so than consumers, increasing the uptake of the touch computers within the commercial and enterprise realms. 

Of course, there’s already been a number of businesses who have adopted the TouchSmart PCs for use with their own specific needs.  One of the most polished and interesting uses has been with Priscilla’s of Boston, a wedding store.  Planning a wedding is a stressful experience, especially when it comes to picking out the bride’s dress.  Instead of going to a store and trying on a number of gowns and looking through books for fabric choices, the new TouchSmart app puts it all on the computer.

Users can view dresses being worn along a runway, match bridesmaids dress, push a button and change fabric colors, etc. It’s an interesting use of touch technology, and given how polished it feels, it’s no surprise that HP is pushing it at every press event they can. 

The optical touch technology used within the TouchSmart computers is fairly widespread within the industry in terms of providing touch inputs for monitors and desktops.  That means that a lot of the programs developed within the confines of the TouchSmart guidelines can actually be used on a number of devices.  That may not be something that HP likes to hear, but it’s certainly good for developers, who won’t be restricted to providing applications for one limited line of devices. 

In that vein, I asked HP about the possibility of opening up a touch-inclined app store for developers to sell their programs and they got a little cagey.  Their response, “we have nothing to announce at this time”, means that of course they’re working on one, or at least entertaining the idea.  Will it see the light of day, though, is the question, and who knows?  Still, given the relatively limited suite of touch applications that exist today, anything that helps make consumers’ experience better is a good thing, and it’ll be interesting to watch this space and see what develops.

Be sure to come back in the next few days for our full review of the new TouchSmart computers!

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