Death to QWERTY?

By  |  Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 10:03 am

No QWERTYTechCrunch’s MG Siegler has a thought-provoking post up which discusses the multiple rumors and other bits of info out there about upcoming devices with touch interfaces–the fabled Apple Tablet, of course, but also Microsoft’s Courier dual-screen concept device and scuttlebutt about an Apple touch remote control and  multi-touch mouse. MG ponders all the evidence and comes up with a sweeping conclusion:

While it may be hard to imagine right now, eventually there will not be physical keyboards.

My first instinct was to dismiss the idea. I’ve written in praise of physical QWERTY; I’m not ready to give it up; I see no immediate scenarios that involve it disappearing. And hey, Steve Jobs himself told me that Apple couldn’t figure out how to make a Mac with a pleasing touch interface. (Yes, I know that Jobs saying that simply means that Apple doesn’t have anything it’s ready to roll out just yet.)

But with tech predictions, the safest strategy is often to avoid being safe. We’ve already seen the death of the floppy, and it’s clear that desktop PCs are on their way to being archaic, niche products. And I’ve frequently predicted that it’s not going to be very long until most people think of the PC as something you can put in your pocket. So I’m not ruling out the possibility that MG’s prediction is right–although I’m guessing that the decline, fall, and disappearance of physical QWERTY will take a decade or two if it happens at all, and that it’s contingent on smart people inventing better ways to enter text via touch interfaces and/or voice input.

What’s your take?


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10 Comments For This Post

  1. Daniel Says:

    I believe that the keyboard is the most optimal device for inputing and managing our computers. Until something far better comes along we are stuck with the keyboard.

    Voice commands are nice but are still to primative to become a replacement. Voice commands won’t come into this conversation until this technology can inter act with you.

  2. Matt Sharpe Says:

    It is extremely short sighted to assume it will *never* go away.
    For the forseeable future, keyboards are a fantastic input device.
    But QUERTY itself as a layout was designed to be slow and awkward, to slow down typists from jamming typewriters. And eventually something will replace it, perhaps a computer-brain interface, or more likely something we cannot yet imagine.

  3. ediedi Says:

    As long as humans communicate through words made up of letters, the keyboard will never go away. Somehow I don’t see telepathy going mainstream just yet.

  4. John Baxter Says:

    It will never happen (fully) where I am. But in my case, “never” is a shorter time than it is more most readers here (as I am age 70).

  5. MG Siegler Says:

    Yep, a full death is a looooong way off, but to think that it will never happy is silly, I think.

  6. Ed Oswald Says:

    I am not about to learn another way of typing after doing it this way for god knows how long (20+ years??). I don’t see the problem with the QWERTY keyboard. Keep it for now. MG – yes I’d agree that to say it would never happen is indeed silly, but I don’t see anything on the horizon that would possibly replace it short of us interfacing ourselves to our PCs 🙂

  7. DTNick Says:

    Touch keyboards work fine for smart phones and some specialty devices (MIDs, etc…), but for general purpose computing, the tactile QWERTY keyboard has too much going for it to go away.

  8. Rob Cheng Says:

    Here’s a way to tell. Do a survey by age group of the percentage of people that can touch type. I have not done this, but I am guessing that there are more young people that can touch type than the older generations. Therefore, it’s not going anywhere. When this statistic starts falling, then there will be room for other technologies to invade.

  9. GT3 Says:

    I need to be able to type accurately without looking at my fingers. No current touch technology offers me that.

    It’s kind of annoying that I can’t even type out a phone number on my iPhone without looking at the screen. That’s one thing I really miss about the little dumb phone I used to carry around. Perhaps they’ll add a reference bump like exists on the ‘F’ and ‘J’ keys on QWERTY keyboards, and I’ll learn to cope.

  10. Chris Donahue Says:

    You will see voice control before you will see handwriting.