HP EliteBook Folio Expands The User Interface’s Dynamic Range For Enterprise Notebooks

There was a day when most of the consumer PC designs were driven by corporate PC designs. This was in the day of WordPerfect, Harvard Graphics and Lotus 1-2-3. A lot has changed since then and for the most part, it has been consumer PC design driving commercial PCs. Interestingly, after using one of Hewlett-Packard’s enterprise notebook workhorses, the HP EliteBook Folio 1040 and seeing the new 1020, I’m now expecting some of those corporate features to get more popular and to even permeate the consumer space.

Since the dawn of multimedia, consumer PCs really drove the usability and design features of commercial PCs. We’re now at the mid-point, maybe three-quarters into the commercial notebook refresh and look what’s desired right now. What is desired most for enterprise productivity are thin and light designs with SSDs, multi-modal touch and gestures, WWAN options, and advanced security options. Again, what really got me thinking were the user interface items on the EliteBook Folio 1040.

ForcePad

The ForcePad is the biggest UI upgrade to the EliteBook Folio lineup. Touchpads previously fell into two distinct categories, ones that click when you press them and those that don’t click, but require left and right clickable buttons to mimic a mouse. ForcePad is different and adds a third option to the mix. It uses pressure sensitivity on the touchpad to determine if there has been a “click.”

ForcePad can also determine the intensity and duration of the finger pressure which opens up a lot of doors. Consider fast scrolling through a MS Word doc or a long web page. On traditional touchpads I keep scrolling my two fingers down, lift them up, and keep scrolling until I’m where I need to be. With ForcePad, I scroll once with my fingers, and the scrolling continues, faster the harder I press, slower the softer I press. In a very similar manner, you can drag objects like icons and pictures from to workspace to folders and back again.

HP EliteBook with ForcePad

I found it valuable in that I could get a lot more done on a smaller touchpad given I didn’t have to keep gesturing side-to-side. In particular, when I connected my notebook to a larger, higher-definition display, it was indispensable in navigating, lessening the need for an external mouse to manage the large display real estate. It took some work to get to master the ForcePad, but not a lot. I have found ForcePad be a valuable experience adder and I give HP a lot of credit for adopting it. I think touchpads like the ForcePad will become more popular and am hearing industry rumblings of HP competitors adopting it.

Fingerprint scanner

Fingerprint scanners have been around for a while now, but really only embraced in financial, retail and medical verticals. To be honest, I really never got all that excited about them in my productivity workloads. That was until I bought my iPhone 6 Plus with TouchID. After my experiences with TouchID, I now want that kind of functionality in everything. Everything just seems faster and I feel a lot more productive.

While the EliteBook 1040’s fingerprint sensor wasn’t as simple as Apple’s TouchID, it got the job done and let me bypass system and web site passwords. I now thoroughly believe that as more users experience fingerprint sensors on their phones and tablets from folks like Samsung and Apple, they will want them on their corporate PCs.

Touch screen and backlit keyboard

The EliteBook 1040 and 1020 have both display touch (optional) and a backlit keyboard. These two are really no-brainers. For every touch screen we, as consumers, use on our phones, tablets, e-readers, Chromebooks, transportation entertainment systems and consumer PCs, we feel we want this on our corporate PCs. My EliteBook 1040 came with touch screen and while I know companies aren’t crazy about Windows 8, I still actively used touch on the 1040 in desktop mode for MS Office, to edit photos, and to surf the web in cramped places like an airplane.

Backlit keyboards were popularized by the Apple MacBook and then were adopted by Windows-based OEMs in premium designs like the consumer Ultrabook segment. Like touch, once users got experience on backlit keyboards in their dark living rooms, offices and bedrooms, it was hard to go back.

HP EliteBook Folio 1040 and 1020 break new ground

HP’s EliteBook 1040 and 1020 notebook take some of the best attributes in consumer notebooks and marries that with features that enterprises must have. HP, most interestingly, broke new ground in the enterprise with their use of ForcePad, which I believe adds a lot of value to their value proposition. In a multi-modal UI world, I hope to see HP and others breaking new ground as today’s clickety-clack touchpads aren’t going to cut it in the future.