Lenovo T400s gets four-finger touchscreen input

Multiple fingers can be used instead of mice, SimpleTap offers on-screen settings shortcuts (see video, below)

Lenovo has announced new touchscreen laptops including the ThinkPad T400s multitouch, the company's first laptop to support four-finger touchscreen input. Until now many laptop makers, including Hewlett-Packard and Dell, were offering touchscreen laptops with two-finger touch input.

Lenovo said ThinkPad T400s will allow manipulation of images using up to four fingers on the laptop. Multiple fingers can be used instead of mice to zoom into maps, or to scroll through documents.

The four-finger touch input capability could be useful to manipulate objects like images in engineering and design applications, which have more edges and require higher levels of precision, Lenovo officials said.

Touch capabilities allow users to be more productive by serving as a mouse replacement, said Mika Majapuro, worldwide ThinkPad product marketing manager at Lenovo. For certain tasks like turning a page or pressing a button, directly touching the computer is natural and intuitive.

"It provides a faster, more natural, and easier way to use their [PC] instead of using the keyboard or bezel buttons," Majapuro said.

The ThinkPad T400s is priced starting at US$1,999 and will become available by the end of September. The laptop is powered by Intel Core 2 Duo processors running at either 2.4GHz or 2.53GHz with 6MB of cache. It will support up to 250GB of storage and 4GB of memory. The laptop weighs 3.91 pounds (1.77 kilograms) and has up to 5.5 hours of run time on a 6-cell battery. It also includes 802.11 b/g/n wireless networking, an integrated webcam and Intel integrated graphics.

Lenovo also launched the two-finger version of the ThinkPad X200 ultraportable laptop. The laptop's weight starts at 3.5 pounds and it offers a battery life of up 10.4 hours with an 8-cell battery and an SSD drive. The laptop is powered by Intel's low-power Core 2 Duo chip with up to 6MB of cache. It's priced starting at $1,654 and the company didn't comment about when it will become available.

The laptops are being introduced ahead of Microsoft's official launch of Windows 7 on Oct. 22, which will come with built-in support for touchscreen capabilities. In anticipation of the OS, Lenovo on Tuesday announced an application called SimpleTap, which is a software environment to give simple touch access to hardware controls and software.

Tapping two fingers on a screen activates the SimpleTap environment on top of Windows. Tapping on specific icons allows users to mute the speaker or adjust screen brightness. The application also provides one-touch access to Web sites like YouTube.

"It's a easy, highly customizable way to work with your ThinkPad," said Aaron Stewart, a member of the user experience and design team at Lenovo. SimpleTap also works with Windows XP and Vista operating systems, and will be available for download from Lenovo's Web site after the launch of Windows 7 on Oct. 22.

Fujitsu on Tuesday also jumped into the multitouch laptop race, introducing an updated version of its LifeBook T5010 convertible tablet PC that supports two-finger touch input. The laptop has a 13.3-inch screen that allows for either touch and stylus input. The laptop weighs about 4.5 pounds and is powered by Core 2 Duo processors. A customizable version of the multitouch laptop is priced over $1800 on Fujitsu's Web site. The laptop will initially come with the Windows Vista OS.

Top PC makers Dell and Hewlett-Packard already offer two-finger touchscreen laptops. Hewlett-Packard launched the TouchSmart TX2 last year, while Dell earlier this year launched the multitouch Latitude XT2 laptop.

Lenovo says the T400s multitouch is the first four-finger touchscreen laptop.

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