Microsoft and Intel Collaborate on Improved Trackpads for Windows 8.1

By Wesley Fenlon

Windows 8.1 gets better APIs for touchpad controls, and better hardware is on its way, too.

Trackpads on Windows laptops are still unreliable. Some are great, supporting easy multi-touch gestures and feeling as smooth and responsive as Apple's MacBook trackpads. Others are cramped, finicky, and frustrating. Some of those faults lie with the hardware, and some lie with Windows. The latter, at least, is something Microsoft plans on addressing.

As The Verge picked up on, Microsoft spent some time at BUILD 2013 talking about how it plans to improve touchpad integration in Windows 8.1. A big part of that comes from a new API for Direct Manipulation and better support for gestures and multi-touch.

The hour-long presentation from Microsoft, available on MSDN, repeatedly touches on smooth movement via touch controls, and that with Direct Manipulation, app developers can make panning and zooming that sticks to the user's finger and works just like Microsoft's panning and zooming in Internet Explorer.

It's all good news, but a pretty dry presentation if you're not a developer looking for new APIs. In the last 10 minutes, however, Microsoft shows off a new prototype precision touchpad co-engineered with Intel. One new feature: accidental activation prevention, so that brushing your thumb or palm over the touchpad won't send the mouse skittering across the screen.

The high precision touchpad has gesture support built in, including edge gestures. The bad news here, of course, is that laptop makers will have to use that touchpad--and given the typical lack of consistency in Windows laptops, that's unlikely. With Intel's involvement, though, there's at least a decent chance Ultrabooks arriving later this year will show up with more precise and flexible touchpads.