SAN JOSE, Calif. – The aging PC is about to get a makeover with new user interfaces courtesy of Microsoft Windows 8. Synaptics hopes to provide some of the cosmetics, extending its reach into larger, more capable touch pads and even keyboards that use touch and force data.
The company also is expanding its work in smartphone touch screens, sampling a chip that integrates an LCD and touch-screen controller. In addition, it is shipping technology to integrate its touch-screen capabilities into the layers of an LCD display.
The PC has been taking a back seat to sexier smartphones and tablets lately. Even ultrabooks--Intel’s concept for Windows-based notebooks that look like the svelte MacBook Air--have had a lackluster reception to date.
Come October 26, Windows 8 will officially debut, hoping to inject some excitement back into PCs with its Metro interface and touch-screen abilities. For PC makers, it’s an opportunity both to adapt the swipe and pinch gestures that have taken hold in mobile devices and to find new ways to differentiate what have become the wallflowers of client computing.
“Apple is heavily investing into their next generation Mac HCI technologies and PC makers cannot find themselves once again lagging in this area,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal of Moor Insights & Strategy (Austin).
For Synaptics, it’s a moment to expand its business into larger touch pads and PC touch-screens supporting new kinds of gesture commands using its new ForcePad technology announced earlier this month. Next year, the company will apply that technology to a new range of keyboards
“We’d like to not only control the touch screen and pad but the keyboard,” said Godfrey Cheng, vice president of PC marketing at Synaptics. “We will enter the keyboard business, too, where our goal is to help re-invent the PC because we think its stagnating,” he said.
Specifically, Synaptics is promoting 105 x 655mm touch pads as the follow on to traditional 85 x 55mm pads used today. The bigger pads help support an expanding pallet of control gestures, many still being created.
For example, when users flick from the right on a touch screen or pad they expose a so-called charms bar of options in Win 8. When they flick from the left the display shifts to another application.
Synaptics has tailored its technology to work on touch screens up to 17 inches in diagonal. It expects today’s 14-inch ultrabooks will soon include expanded models to use the larger screens.
The company’s ForcePad detects up to 1,000 grams pressure, and is actually 40 percent thinner than current touch pads to enable use in skinny ultrabooks. It will ship in 2013, enabling new kinds of gestures, some still on the drawing board.
Win 8 supports eight new touch pad gestures. Synaptics adds three of its own and five more that use force. “We had 15-20 originally,” said Cheng.
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How to gesture to your Win 8 PC