Designing the Dual-Screen Evolution of the PC

Dell’s Experience Innovation Group (EIG) believes the future of personal computing lies in the combination of hardware and software to deliver immersive, predictive experiences. Recognizing that form factor plays a significant role in how we interact with technology. We began exploring multi-screen devices around a decade ago and have been working with partners to explore this deeper the last few years.

Modern, smart and responsive devices have the potential of unlocking new ways of working; encouraging collaboration and boosting productivity. We have been exploring how to make user interactions with technology simple, natural, and intuitive. Even if it’s just shaving seconds off the log-in process as demonstrated with Dell ExpressSign-in, our aim is to make technology work better and harder for us as our usage models evolve.

New category considerations and uses

Dell’s EIG has expertise in areas of innovation such as narrow display borders, all-day battery life, and revolutionary manufacturing techniques, but dual screen devices bring unique design and engineering considerations.

The obvious benefit of having multiple displays is to multi-task. Today, it’s not uncommon for consumers to watch a movie on one device while looking up an actor’s filmography on a second screen. However, those use cases are only scratching the surface.

We are designing dual-screen PCs to be productivity enabling experiences. Users will be able to complete multiple tasks more efficiently and seamlessly. For example, artists and architects will be able to create on one screen, while referencing photographs on another. You’ll be able to take notes on one screen, while the other shows the slides on a video call; or use one for composing an email, while another shows the spreadsheets you’re pulling data from. Imagine that in one light, mobile device.

Two is better than one…but only if done right.

User experience is king, and research plays a vital role in our design journey. We engaged a dedicated team of in-house user experience and behavioral psychology experts early in the concept development process.

Psychology and habits play a huge part in the adoption of new technologies, and it is critical to understand how users respond to new product designs and experiences so that we get them right.

Our agile development cycles mean that dual screens have taken various forms at Dell – some earlier concepts even made it as far as the prototyping stage back in 2017.

Thanks to books, dual screen and foldable formats are familiar to us, and we see dual-screens as a natural evolution of the PC. However, we also know that users today have a strong emotional attachment to physical keyboards. Users will eventually shift to on-screen keyboards in the future or rely on voice-activation or pens. We are exploring ways to bridge these experiences and embrace the new rules of device interaction. We had to consider a range of usage scenarios and input methods: What advancements are needed to handle palm rejection on fully touch enabled surface? How do we make the device accessible for those with special needs?

A big question: Since cats love to sit directly on keyboards, where will they park themselves in the future and how would a dual screen device react to their movements?

Design iteration to deliver the perfect experience

The above is only a handful of the factors we’ve had to consider as we work diligently to bring the best dual screen experiences to users. We have spent a lot of time exploring the balance between performance, power and overall aesthetics. For example, larger screens are preferred for productivity tasks, while users will continue to demand thinner and lighter devices. Of course, these all directly conflict with the need for ample battery life.

Dell’s EIG will continue to work with partners and design, build, test and repeat. We’re excited about the evolution of the PC and expect applications to take advantage of dual screens to provide an enhanced experience. We are committed to ensuring Dell delivers the best dual-screen experience – one that we are proud to put our name to. Watch this space for further updates!

About the Author: Glen Robson

Glen Robson is the CTO for Dell Technologies’ Client Solutions Group, where he leads the Experience Innovation Group comprised of Design, Architecture, Technology and Strategy teams. He returned to Dell after serving for three years as EVP, Global Head of Solutions at Verifone. Prior to joining Verifone, Glen spent the previous 10 years at Dell working in both Austin, Texas and Taipei, Taiwan and successfully led the transformation of our SMB and Consumer Notebooks divisions. In addition to leading Engineering and Product organizations for both Dell and Sun Microsystems, he was also part of a successful start-up in the UK developing fault-tolerant computer systems. A native of Scotland, Glen holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from the University of Kent at Canterbury, England.