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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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