For those of us who often work from home or for others that have very active online lives via social networking, etc, we likely spend more time looking at an electronic screen than we do looking out a real life glass window.
Of course, dual screens increase productivity. At least they do in my world. Programmers and office workers alike are discovering that a second screen allows them to work on one document while referencing another. The time saved switching using a single monitor from application to application adds up very quickly. Add to that the less than eidetic memory of us non-geniuses and you will quickly notice the difference.
In addition to the number of screens, the cost of the devices are falling and the sizes keep increasing. As of January, 2012 over eighty five percent of Internet users have screen resolutions above 1024x768. Wow, I remember when that was a big screen. Now, a 1024x768 pixel screen is not even the norm, it’s a minority at thirteen percent. Note that these statistics may not be one hundred precent typical as they were put together using data from http://www.w3schools.com, a website dedicated as a reference for website builders.
An article on the Microsoft Research site entitled “Two Screens Are Better Than One” claims that researchers “found a tool that can increase your productivity by 9 to 50 percent and make your work day easier.”
A paper called “Toward Characterizing the Productivity Benefits of Very Large Displays” found a nine per cent improvement in a series of tasks that involved cutting and pasting and scanning a document for information.
Personally, the “multiple monitor productivity sweet spot” as coined by Scott Hanselman from Microsoft for me, and Scott, is three monitors. Just think for a moment about one main active monitor, where you do work. A second monitor is for reference documents. And then, unexpectedly, the “magical third monitor.” At the very least this monitor can be used as a communication window. Email, social networking, watching the baseball scores, whatever. This monitor is “magical” because when you are really, really busy; you can turn it off.
A popular solution for this second monitor has become a tablet PC/iPad. It is a device meant for reading from so it’s the right size. Navigation through the document is easy. And finally, it solves the issue that the average computer user will run into. With the rise of the tablet and the smart phone the number of these windows are expanding rapidly. We can sneak a peek at our Internet while we wait for the bus, in class, waiting in line at the store, even on a plane.
Personally, the “multiple monitor productivity sweet spot” as coined by Scott Hanselman from Microsoft for me, and Scott, is three monitors. -
For the captive audience, many thoughtful restaurateurs and sporting facilities even provide screen entertainment in the washroom. I suppose it is meant to lessen any potential withdrawal symptoms and it may help prevent the loitering of those that brought their own screens.
Airports, subway stations, movie theaters and shopping centers aren’t to be outdone of course. Ignoring the automatic, touch screen, no personal interaction required ticket and check-in kiosks, massive scale screens scroll advertisements beside you as you are swept along on a moving sidewalk.
Coming innovations in screen technology can only serve to increase the penetration of Internet-capable surfaces into our lives:
Microsoft Surface. All I can really say about this device is that I can’t wait to try it. It may replace one of my marvelous monitors. I do enjoy a second keyboard now and then. Go see the video, now. I’ll wait, http://www.microsoft.com/surface. I can’t wait to see the full feature release of that film either! Key points: touch screen, magnetic and removable flexible keyboard that doubles as a cover. This, I could try.
Speaking of flexible screens, there are prototypes in testing now. The idea being that you can take that second monitor with you rolled up in your laptop case or produce a phone that bounces like a ball if you drop it.
It won’t stop there. The simplest form factor of a netbook IS a touch and Internet-capable flexible screen that can be overlaid on mirrors and windows.
The focus of screen technology innovation to date has been on real estate, touch capabilities, power requirements and pixels per inch (ppi).
I suggest that while these items will remain important, the pervasiveness of screen technology in our environments will be the next digital revolution.