Here, MG Siegler argues that Apple's product line signals the push towards the end of real buttons. It would seem, based on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad (not to mention rumored touch remote and multi-touch enabled mouse) that Apple certainly finds buttons annoying.
While it may be hard to imagine right now, eventually there will not be physical keyboards. Apple’s tablet may well be the first product that will get users accustomed to this idea. And yes, as I said, plenty will bitch. But eventually, technology will improve, and virtual tacile feedback will improve, and there will be no need to take up so much surface area on any device with physical keys that really serve no purpose.
Wouldn't that be neat. Only Siegler completely forgets that Apple's market is entirely commercial. Apple computers are not used by government entities, and iPods and iPads are certainly not used on nuclear submarines as control interfaces. Nor should they. The tiny little electromechanical parts inside the keys of a keyboard are just about foolproof, and can take a beating. You can, to a certain degree, drop your keyboard, spill food on it, have grimy hands type on it, cover it in a thick plastic sleeve to protect it, and generally abuse it. Industrial computing simply cannot stand up to delicate and pretty OLEDs with resistive touch interfaces, and its stupid to think that they someday will. Not to mention the cost of multi-touch tech makes it really only feasible for cute little handheld devices. The cost of the iPad proves this math.
Perhaps Siegler is just getting swept up in all the iPad hype. It wasn't too long ago that tablet PC's were going to revolutionize computer, and their sales are flat. It wasn't too long before that that another set of touchscreen computers was set to emerge, and then we coined the term "gorilla arm" and they died. Touchscreen tech is not new, its not even remotely new.
Apple's desire to use touchscreens on all their products may, I predict, cause an upper limit to the size of the devices they can profitably sell. The iPad is nearing this limit.
If you don't believe me, go to Walgreen's digital photo center, and spend an hour editing and ordering photos at the kiosk, which features a vertically mounted touchscreen. Within the first few minutes, your shoulders will begin to complain. By the end, they will hate you...and you will hate touchscreens.