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Digital Natives

Take another keyboard- and mouse-free device for instance: the iPad. Just a little over two years after its introduction, the touchscreen-centric iPad is the number-one selling non-phone personal computer in the world. It outsells – in sheer volume of units shipped – the total of all computers shipped by any one of the top PC makers in the world: HP, Dell, Lenovo, etc. That’s all their many models of desktops and laptops rolled into one:

Or consider the iPhone, which is the number-one selling phone in the world, hands down. Its next closest competitors virtually all sport touchscreens as well. Now, 50% of all phones sold in the US are smartphones, and virtually all are powered by touchscreen interfaces.

But iPad- and iPhone-like touch-based devices are just supplements for most households in the developed world (in developing nations, like most in Africa and large swaths of Asia, increasing numbers of households count their smartphones as the first and sole computing device). In the West, the touchscreen-centric devices add to their owners’ computers, but still rarely wholesale replace them. The Western world, even at home, is still dominated by Windows and traditional Macs.

However, recently Microsoft announced that its Windows 8 desktop operating system, due out this fall, will be fully touch enabled. In other words, its interface will look much more like the iPhone than it does the traditional Windows interface hundreds of millions of people know today. In fact, it will look exactly like the interface on the new Windows phones, dubbed “Metro.”

Windows 8

(click for larger image)

The sleek, tile-based interface is meant to work on touch screens that vary in size from phone to wall uses. And all at the tip of your fingers. The multi-touch revolution is literally remaking the computer as we know it. And more and more often, users – children especially – will be able to simply eschew the mouse and even the keyboard.

That’s because it’s not just touch that Microsoft is eyeing. The same gesture and voice technologies that control the Xbox will also be brought to Windows 8 as well.

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