In Touch With Touch Screens
Larger screens and more kiosk applications
are top touch screen trends.
This time next year, Glen Cowie predicts, 15-inch touch screens will become the standard, replacing the 12.1-inch screens we see today. Cowie is director of sales and marketing for Javelin Systems (Irvine, CA), a division of Aspeon, Inc. Javelin manufactures integrated touch screen PCs for the worldwide hospitality and retail markets.
"The shift to the larger size LCD (liquid crystal display) is not necessarily because 'bigger is better,'" explains Cowie. "Cost is driving this trend. Economies of scale are now favoring the 15-inch size." Cowie noted a recent PC Magazine article that predicts that by 2004, 50% of all home PCs will have 15-inch LCD monitors. "Imagine what this will do for costs," he says. "Simple supply and demand will drive the prices of these larger screens downward." He says restaurants, for example, will find new uses for touch. He cites a local sports bar that uses 15-inch touch screen monitors on each table. Customers in the bar use the screens to watch TV and access the Internet for a truly interactive experience.
Mark Scheda, vice president of marketing for Ultimate Technology (Victor, NY), thinks the 15-inch screen may become popular at some point. However, he is more interested in the point of sale (POS) system architecture. Ultimate Technology manufactures POS hardware, including peripherals and complete systems. "The biggest trend I'm seeing is the movement away from closed to open architecture systems," says Scheda. "Open architecture systems give VARs more flexibility in meeting their customers' needs." A closed or proprietary system doesn't allow for VARs to add value. Price then, becomes the only differentiating factor.
Scheda admits there is a downside to open architecture systems. "VARs have to choose and integrate best-of-breed products, including touch screens," notes Scheda. "For some VARs, the integration can be a bit tricky." This is especially true, adds Scheda, when VARs are integrating POS software with supply chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM) programs.
Burgeoning Markets For Touch - And Don't Forget Kiosks
Both Cowie and Scheda say there are growing markets in which VARs can sell touch screens. These markets include convenience stores (C-stores)/petroleum, retail, and logistics/warehouse management. Scheda says specialty retailers are reluctant to adopt touch screens, since most of the transactions are scanned. Kiosks, he adds, are a hot market for VARs. "Kiosks are in a growth stage," says Scheda. "VARs should help their customers determine how kiosks can be profitable. There is also money to be made in servicing and supporting kiosks." Scheda points to Kodak's picture maker as an example of a successful kiosk. (The kiosks enable consumers to customize their own photos.) The kiosk manufacturer and the retailer make money by selling the thermal paper used to make the photos.
Touch Screen Features - Compare Apples To Apples
With new applications to incorporate into growing markets, what should VARs consider when choosing touch screens? Scheda and Cowie suggest VARs consider the following:
- reliability - Because reliability is difficult to quantify, ask your peers what they are using. Look for gold-plated connectors and investigate the cooling mechanism as well.
- value - Like reliability, this is difficult to determine. "Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when looking at touch screens," advises Scheda. "Ask questions like: How much memory am I getting for my money?, Is cabling included?, and 'Does the price include the power supply?"
- vendor support - This is crucial when it comes to open architecture integration. "If you have a dozen pieces to integrate, you'll probably have questions on how to make it work," notes Scheda. "Your vendor should be able to help you with integration issues."
Scheda doesn't see any radical changes in touch screen technology in the near future. He predicts a move toward thin client applications that could incorporate touch within the next two to three years.
Cowie foresees the impact of wireless on touch technology, with Ethernet going by the wayside. "Web tablets - full scale wireless PCs - will be used in healthcare, for example," explains Cowie. A nurse could write on a patient's chart simply by writing on the Web tablet. Perhaps the most exciting prediction is virtual touch. Instead of touching a screen, users touch space. (You may have seen the ad on TV with the man sitting on the park bench, using this type of device.) Cost will push this technology. "A full-size LCD screen costs around $600," says Cowie. "The small LCD that would fit over your eye costs about $20."Questions about this article? E-mail the author at LisaK@corrypub.com.