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Almost a third of notebook PC users and more than a quarter of desktop PC owners are keen to have a touchscreen on their next computer.

Market watcher Canalys talked to 4000-odd phone and PC users in various European countries and found that while touchscreens are a minority interest, it's a big minority. Survey subjects were asked to express their demand for PC touchscreen UIs on a scale of 1 to 10, the higher the number the stronger the interest.

Among desktop PC users, 26 per cent rated this at 9 or 10. The percentage of notebook or netbooks users who also scored their interest at 9 or 10 was 32 per cent.

Those favouring touchscreens tend to be people who have owned a lot of phones - 15 or more - in the past, and there's a particular interest in touchscreens on netbooks and netbook-style devices. Likewise, folk who currently use smartphones can see an advantage in having a touchscreen integrated into other kinds of computing kit.

iPhone owners, for example, didn't care too much for touchscreens fitted to desktops or laptops, but ask them if they'd fancy a netbook with such a display and 61 per cent rating the notion a highly appealing to them.

You can see where this is leading, of course. Yes, Canalys was quick to add its tuppence on the viability of a market for new-style, media-oriented touchscreen tablets of the kind the iPhone maker is expected to announce tomorrow.

Think of such a gizmo as the ideal blend of smartphone and PC. The big screen and speed of the latter; the simple, content-centric UI, always on connectivity and content/app stores of the latter. You can see chip maker ARM doing better out of these kinds of devices than netbook-style kit.

“Having an integrated application, content and service delivery model will be vital to the proposition of this new generation of tablets and touch-screen PCs," said Canalys analyst Tim Shepherd.

"Many vendors will find this a challenge, but users have come to expect this now. It was missing from previous attempts at transforming PC user behaviour, but it will make the difference between success and failure this time around.” ®

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