The latest developer ' Canary' version of Google's desktop internet browser can support swipes, pinches and other hands-on operations.
Touch screens are already the standard for mobile devices -- even BlackBerry's latest flagship keypad phone the Q10 also offers a high-definition touch screen in support of its QWERTY keyboard. Likewise, without the leaps and bounds made in multi-touch and finger-tracking technology, the tablet would still be something a doctor prescribes to treat illnesses and not something that schools are starting to prescribe as a means of boosting children's educational attainment.
Indeed, so big are touch screens that according to Lux Research, the market for haptics -- the technology that provides a tactile response to a touch command -- will experience a 16-fold increase over the next 12 years as touch and gestures become the norm for everything from smartwatches to control pads on running machines. "An emerging wave of haptics offers the potential for a more intuitive and information-rich touch experience than today's simple whole-device vibration," said Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate, of the company's research, published on Tuesday.
However, while there's little doubt that the touch screen is going to play a greater and greater role in how we as consumers interact with and make sense of modern technology, the jury is still well and truly out as to whether it has a role -- haptic or non-haptic -- to play in navigating and interacting with the traditional notebook or desktop PC.
Apple believes that touch screens are not only unnecessary but actually counterproductive on computers. Its research into the subject showed that forcing users to take their hands off the keyboard and mouse, change their seating position, lean forward and touch the screen in order to achieve a task or launch an application that could have been done in microseconds via a mouse click, keyboard shortcut or voice command, destroys productivity.
However, Microsoft has ' bet the farm' on touch as the future of the same computer interface, which many commentators claim is the reason why consumers have been less than willing to upgrade to Windows 8. Intel has also come out on Microsoft's side and announced that any manufacturer who wishes to describe their product as an ultrabook will, from 2014, have to include a touch screen in order to do so.
And now Google is also playing around with the same interface, albeit limited to its web browser. As well as supporting pinch to zoom and left and right swipes to load cached pages, it also offers support for Microsoft's virtual keyboard that appears on the screen when a webpage field requires information -- say for example a social media login page. Just like Apple, Google is a serious innovator in the consumer electronics sphere, even if, until recently, its efforts have been focused on software and services, rather than hardware.
And, although the features in the latest Chrome build will not be filtering through to the latest consumer version within the next few weeks, the fact that the company is considering them at all highlights the fact that although traditional PC sales are falling, it is still a market well and truly dominated by Microsoft. Focusing touch input around a specific computer function also makes a lot of sense.
If the swipes and pinches are specifically for browsing, then there is no chance of disrupting productivity. It also means that as Windows 8 tablets become more popular that their owners will be able to use Chrome instead of Internet Explorer and still have the same features and commands, literally at their fingertips.