Asus has just shown off a concept PC that’s an inevitable development of multi-touch touchscreen technology: A dual-screen clamshell netbook machine. It’s glossy, it’s smart, and it makes some sort of sense. But the truth is, it’s been done before.
Asus’s machine is part of the “Community Designed PC” project the company runs with Microsoft, so it’s a conceptual work-in-progress machine rather than a “soon to be on the market” product. It’s a symmetrically-screened device, that can be used in a multitude of ways that current PC design just doesn’t enable. As Asus points out, you can control it with either hand gestures or proper multi-touch, and there’s also handwriting recognition. When it’s flipped to “notebook” position you can type on the bottom touchscreen, with a flexibility that surpasses even the amazing Art Lebedev Optimus keyboard. Whereas in “book” position it’s more like an e-reader device. Fabulous thinking–and its touchscreen and sleek styling with silver details fits nicely into the “post iPhone” era. But curiously it almost belongs in the pre-MacBook era.
Over at MacRumors they’ve been looking at the history of Apple’s multi-touch tech. Back in 2002 a company called FingerWorks made some pretty neat touch-sensitive hardware that included gesture-based inputs and touch-pad keyboards. It even manufactured a hack-in mod for the PowerBook called MacNTouch that included a full touch keyboard with multi-touch gesture recognition and all the associated Apple drivers. It’s no surprise that the team became part of Apple through a 2005 acquisition.
While the MacNTouch modded machines only had one display, they bear more than a passing resemblance to the Asus concept (and I’m sure there’s something similar in that Microsoft vision for 2019 video.) We also know that Apple is at work researching this technology. It begs the question, which company would you rather see bring a machine with dual screens and multiple-personalities to life: Apple, or Asus?