For better or worse, and somewhat against my will, my 2-year-old daughter has figured out my phone with astonishing speed — grabbing it from the table when I’m not looking, expertly swiping to unlock, and paging through the apps to find her current favorite, “Elmo Potty Time.”

She has become similarly adept with our family’s Microsoft Surface tablet.

So it’s only natural for her, when encountering a computer, to press the icons on the screen, expecting something to happen. I’ve witnessed this several times now, and recently captured the video above, as she presses the icons on my MacBook Pro.

On the other end of the spectrum, I recently loaned my Surface to a colleague here at GeekWire, and watched him initially struggle to navigate using the trackpad on the TouchCover keyboard, before I pointed out that he could just swipe at the screen. After that he had no problem.

My takeaway from these two experiences: Microsoft is right — or at least it will be, eventually.

If you’re just tuning in to this debate, on one side is Apple, whose executives have long contended that touch screens aren’t appropriate for vertical notebook screens, thanks to what’s known as “Gorilla Arm Syndrome.” But the touch-screen capabilities of Microsoft’s Windows 8 are changing minds on this topic, as exemplified by Sean Hollister’s recent commentary on The Verge.

“Even in everyday use, I find myself touching the screens of computers (whether they have touchscreens or not) because I can do things faster and more intuitively,” he wrote, describing notebook touchscreens as a complement to (not a replacement for) keyboards and trackpads/mice.

In an otherwise gloomy report on Windows 8 sales last week, NPD noted, “The strong performance of Windows 8 notebooks with touchscreens, where Windows 8 truly shines, offers some reason for optimism. These products accounted for 6 percent of Windows 8 notebook sales at an average price of $867 helping to re-establish a premium segment to the Windows consumer notebook market.”

Bottom line, touchscreen notebooks seem destined to become pervasive, and Microsoft will be able to brag that it was first. The big question, given the Redmond company’s history with tablets, is whether Microsoft can capitalize on its first-mover advantage and work with its partners to make sure it’s doing touchscreen notebooks far better than Apple does when Apple inevitably gets around to doing them.

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  • Jason Gerard Clauss

    “bbbbbbbut” – Apple fanboys

    • fanboy

      bbbbbbbut what? Apple fans were some of the first to acknowledge that the new Windows IU appeared best suited for 2 year old girls.

      • GG002

        And by means of deduction, that Apple fans have lower IQ than 2 year old girls.

      • Guest

        And this may sum up MSFT’s true problems.

  • Guest

    Glad to see that Microsoft is thinking a generation ahead.

  • DazzlingD

    The iMac in my home office is covered in fingerprints because my three year old daughter and six year old son are so used to using the family Sony Vaio Touchscreen AIO running Windows 8.

  • marc_h

    My 15 month old daughter is quite a whiz with our iPad and my wife’s iPhone. She particularly excels at deleting apps (or at least the icons). We’re not sure how she does it so it so consistently and quickly. Fortunately for me my Windows phone is unscathed which I owe entirely to it’s lack of a depressable button. My daughter just loves to bang the apple devices’ button over and over while manipuliating the screen.

  • Greg

    An important question is whether people will pay more for a laptop with a touchscreen. Wouldn’t be surprised if people like touch screens on laptops when they are free but, right now, they cost more, considerably more (Michael Dell, for example, recently said, “the touchscreen products will certainly cost more” when talking about Windows 8). Touchscreen laptops have been around for a while and haven’t sold well. Unclear if people will be willing to pay more for a touch screen on a laptop, but initial data seems to suggest they will not.

  • Guest

    Still not convinced on the invalidity of “Gorilla Arm Syndrome” on desktops. I’m sitting here in front of 2 large monitors and would hate if I had to move up and reach over just to press something. On tablets, absolutely.

    • Troy Morris

      I was also unconvinced until I sat in front of one of the all-in-one Dells at the MSFT store for half an hour.

      It honestly surprised me at how quickly, and with what little effort, I was able to lift my hand and execute on a desired action. When I got home, there was a discernible lag in the ol’ mouse and keyboard to execute the same actions.

      I noticed this same type of differential when I first started using touch mice (and touchpads) with gesture controls and would come into the office and use a “classic” drag and point mouse.

      • Eelco

        Well, I’m much quicker on my touchpad as the distances are smaller, even compared to my 15″ laptop screen. I don’t think touch screens for laptops are a bad idea, especially not when these laptops are dual mode (turn them into a pad), but I don’t think I would ever prefer it over the touch pad. Now, a separate mouse is another story… that’s really clunky, if only because the travel between your mouse and keyboard is disrupting.

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Sorry, I couldn’t get past the thought of your daughter half a dozen years from now mortified at the fact that you’ve told the world that her favorite app was “Elmo Potty Time”.

  • meme72

    “Gorilla Arm Syndrome”…oh right, cause they take away the mouse and force me to touch the screen for everything the whole time…now I get it. Also, I never take into account my kids use when buying home computers…it’s all work work work for me and the Apple Fan Boys cause that is what Apple is all about, remember those commercials Steve Jobs made touting productivity and making fun of PCs for being so fun-centric? What did Steve Jobs call it when I have to slouch and use one arm rested on my stomach to hold the elbow of my other arm that is holding my iphone while I read or watch a movie?

  • SilverSee

    “For better or worse, and somewhat against my will, my 2-year-old daughter has figured out my phone with astonishing speed — grabbing it from the table when I’m not looking, expertly swiping to unlock, and paging through the apps to find her current favorite, “Elmo Potty Time.”

    Todd, it sounds like you need Kid’s Corner!

    I hear those new Lumia 920 or HTC 8x handsets make nice upgrades for the holidays. :-)

  • SilverSee
  • Rohit

    the power of habit in action… its just natural to expect all screens to be touch enabled…. I have also seen kids touch digital displays on elevators

    • Guest

      I’ve seen kids touch TVs to pet the displayed animals or show Swiper to Dora. I’ve also seen kids touch poop to make sure it really is. Kids are naive and their first instinct is to touch things. I am not convinced that this is a valid guideline to introduce touch to production desktops. The same logical fallacy brought us Clippy and MS Bob.

  • Waz

    I was in the library the other day checking out books and was wondering why the screen was not responding to my touch gestures …. doh, its not touch. I had to disengage and use that clumsy mouse thing. Touch on laptops is awesome. I suggest to any doubters to find a touch friendly laptop and give it a go. I contend that once you try it out, you will not want to go back. Touch is already incorporated in our phones, kindles, pads, ATM machines, library check-in machines, and other screens in which we find it a natural interaction. I also like the concept of removable keyboards. Every time I am in a coffee shop I invariably see iPad users with clumsy keyboard type cases in front of them so they can type. Oh wait a minute, isn’t that sort of the same as a touch laptop with a keyboard? Certainly, there is a “job to be done” with that form factor.

  • Walden Gajo

    I have the same experience with our SurfaceRT tablet. I was helping my wife with her PowerPoint Presentation and as a desktop user, I constantly was trying to use the mouse on the SurfaceRT until I realize that it is a touchscreen. My 20 years of dependency on the mouse to move things around has become instinct that I completely forgotten that I was working on a touchscreen. After that, everything flows naturally and resizing and moving items on PowerPoint slides has become easier. I would say, I was more productive with the touchscreen than when I was using the mouse.

    Just my personal experience.

  • guestt

    Because all the backbone of today’s technology are created by a 2-years old swiping her dad’s pc to play her favorite potty game.

  • BornRight

    Completely agree. Here’s a new article stating exactly the same thing:

    Touchscreen laptops are catching on.

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