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How long until every display is a touch screen?

3:00 pm by | 0 Comments

Most televisions and all MacBooks still lack a touch screen. When will this change? When will all displays be converted to touch screens?

It could take some time. While the PC industry has embraced Windows 8 with a wide variety of touch screen devices (including laptops and desktops), some manufacturers are reluctant to enter the realm.

Part of this is based on cost and consumer demands. Hundreds of millions of traditional mobile phones are still sold annually, especially in emerging markets. These devices can barely surf the Web and rarely feature more than the most basic apps (such as a calculator or a calendar). Thus, there is no need for manufacturers to add a touch screen.

The same is true for laptops. While it would be great if Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) added touch to every device they produce, the reality is that there are still millions of consumers who want a cheaper option.

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This is not an issue that is exclusive to computers and smartphones. Automobile manufacturers, such as Ford (NYSE: F) and GM (NYSE: GM), charge a lot of money for their in-car touch panels, many lower end models are produced the old-fashioned way.

For some companies, the added expense may not matter. Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) prime customers tend to make and spend more money. After discovering that Mac users spend an average of $20 to $30 more per night on hotel rooms, Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW) decided to show them more expensive hotel options than the ones seen by PC users.

Apple's starting price is $329 for the iPad Mini -- the highest price of any small tablet. Regardless, the company still managed to sell three million units of the iPad 4 and iPad Mini when they were released.

These are just a couple of things that show the buying power of Apple customers. If the company wanted to release an expensive touch screen computer, it could. People would buy it up immediately. But Apple may continue to wait another five to 10 years.

It's all part of Apple's incremental update schedule. If the company adds touch to the MacBook, it would greatly reduce the importance of the iPad 4 and iPad Mini. Tablet sales would plummet as wealthy consumers shifted to the ultimate all-in-one MacBook.

Apple does not want this to happen anytime soon. The iPad profit margins are much higher than the margins on a MacBook. Apple sold 100 million iPads in less than three years -- the MacBook will never be able to compete with that. Thus, the company has a number of reasons to put off the touch screen transition for as long as possible.

In doing so, Apple can also stretch out the flow of innovation. Right now, MacBook Air and iMac users are looking forward to one thing: a Retina Display. After that, there is not much Apple can provide. The company might continue to refine its creative Hybrid Drive concept, but only select users will care about that.

Beyond the expense associated with adding a touch screen, and beyond the corporate decision to delay their inclusion, there are a number of reasons why the touch transition is years away from completion.

Follow me @LouisBedigianBZ

[Image from flickr user exfordy]

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By Bedigian, Louis

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