Inside the HP TouchSmart PC software: HP SmartCenter – Part 4

April 24, 2008 7:33 pm

This is part 4 of the mini-series on the HP SmartCenter software. Hear about the team’s reaction to the Engadget leak and the launch plans at CES 2007. If you missed the first three parts, they are here, here and here.

One of the really unsettling events before the launch of the TouchSmart PC was that Engadget somehow got a hold of some pictures that had been prepared for the launch in early 2007 at the Consumer Electronics Show. It was billed in the first sentence as “AMD’s sweet new rig”, which was a little bit of a slap in the face, since most of the real work fell outside of AMDs realm. I remember the team meeting when our program manager came in and told us about the “leak”. He had heard it from Microsoft just a few moments before joining the meeting. The mood in the room instantly turned. People started feeling both mad at the leaked information (and the leaker) and depressed about the potential impact this would have on our launch at CES. Microsoft especially was disappointed, since the TouchSmart PC represented a big investment on their part, carrying some of the Vista messaging. The TouchSmart PC was to be billed as one of a few “dream” PCs at CES. Having gone through an experience like that, I now always think about how the people involved must feel when I see “leaked” information about upcoming products. It’s not fun to have it happen to you.

On a happier note, the TouchSmart PC seemed to make quite a splash at CES. At the last minute I was asked to attend the show to help with technical support on the show floor. This was my first time attending CES and going to Las Vegas, and I quite enjoyed the experience. I ran into quite a few of the people that had worked with us on the project, and it was fun to see the crowds milling about the TouchSmart PCs at the HP and Microsoft booths. Having backstage access was a unique thing, but it involved a lot of walking around, helping the people doing demos by making sure the software was installed properly.

Since then, the HP TouchSmart PC has received numerous awards (including spot number seven on PC World’s list of most innovative products of 2007) and for a short while even had a fan website, the HP TouchSmart Owner’s Club.

This is the tentative end of the series. If you’re curious about other aspects, let me know, and if I can talk about it, I’ll see if I can accommodate your curiosity.

23 Responses to “Inside the HP TouchSmart PC software: HP SmartCenter – Part 4”

Gordon wrote a comment on April 30, 2008

So what does the future hold? Will we see more of this sort of software?

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on April 30, 2008

Gordon, I can’t really answer that question directly, but I’d like to turn it around: Would you like to see more of this sort of software? If yes, what do you think would be most interesting to see? Do you own a TouchSmart?

[…] « Inside the HP TouchSmart PC software: HP SmartCenter – Part 2 Inside the HP TouchSmart PC software: HP SmartCenter – Part 4 […]

GeoffM wrote a comment on July 5, 2008

I have 2 (IQ770’s) we love em – I do wish that HP would post updates for the SmartCenter as the IQ500 series shows the possibilities the hardware of the 700’s is very much still viable for some years to come

Theo Stauffer wrote a comment on July 8, 2008

“Gordon, I can’t really answer that question directly, but I’d like to turn it around: Would you like to see more of this sort of software? If yes, what do you think would be most interesting to see? Do you own a TouchSmart?”

I couldn’t belive I actually read this. It’s no wonder Apple walks all over you guys. Microsoft, HP, Sony, er al all have true innovating ideas on occasion and then proceed to f*ck it up totally by being brain dead on the rest of the process. Here’s a tip: HP could sell a lot more of this class of device if they opened up the SDK/API and allowed developers to write their own apps for them. Presentation software, Virtual DJ/VJ tools, you name it.

I just cannot believe that you people cannot see this yourselves. Maybe that’s why Apple is Apple and HP makes one night wonders….

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on July 8, 2008


Thanks for voicing your point of view.

The reason I couldn’t answer the question directly is because I can’t make any promises on HP’s behalf on my personal blog. At the point in time when Gordon asked the question, we hadn’t announced the IQ500 series yet, so I had to stay quiet on that. I still can’t talk about any SDK/API plans, but here’s what I can tell you:

Speaking purely for myself (not HP) and speaking as a software developer, I have been advocating within HP for an SDK from the very first version of the TouchSmart PC, even before we were halfway done with the software. Since I can’t talk about internal company details here, let me just say there have been severe constraints on what we’ve been able to do so far. In the future [a few years], perhaps I’ll be able to share some details on the limits we developed the IQ500 series software under. I think it would blow your mind.

In general, it’s all well and good to want to do something, but there are several hurdles one has to go through in a big company to accomplish things: politics, skepticism, limits on people and time, etc.

What really helps (you wouldn’t believe how much) is when people make encouraging comments about wanting to see API/SDK type work done so they can start their own development on gadgets/addins/plugins.

Believe me, we fully realize what needs to be done. We see it quite, quite clearly.

If you personally are interested in developing something, just let me know and we can talk more about that in a less public forum.


miams wrote a comment on July 28, 2008

I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon this site.

I’ve been looking at the iq506 and look forward to purchasing it in the next couple of weeks to put in my remodeled kitchen.

The touchsmart software and interface is both the computer’s greatest attribute and weakest link. The concern is that the touchsmart software is only developed by a handful of HP developers; who at some point will get reassigned to some new project (if not already.)

I think a terrific business case can be made for making the software open source. It would let the customers and users build on the initial HP work as a springboard. Users could then lead the way, instead of HP trying to anticipate the desires of the marketplace. All the while it would drive more and more sales for leader in touch based computing, HP.

If Sun can make Java open source, surely HP can jump thru whatever hurdles to make SmartCenter open source.


GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on July 28, 2008

M, thanks for those comments. They are very encouraging. Just one additional thought: How long did it take Sun to make Java open source? And how much pressure from developers/users did it take?

Luckily the developers have not yet been reassigned to a new project, so hang in there, quite a bit could be done even without going completely open source.


JR Benning wrote a comment on August 7, 2008

Hello GeekTieGuy,

I was hoping we could talk a little about the API/SDK offline. Please email me when you have a chance.

Best regards,
J.R. Benning

Mioplanet wrote a comment on August 9, 2008


We are currently creating a drawing software for the HP TouchSmart. We don’t use any api but we can have our application launch, minimize and restore when needed so the integration is correct.

For a drawing software multi touch support would be fantastic, but at least being capable of detecting when the finger is touching the screen (not just moving) would be a minimum… we are not able to detect when the finger is releasing the screen (we just detect the touch and move events)

Any kind of help would be great.
We can give you the alpha version of the software, and you can have a look here ( for various samples of what we do.

(currently we just want to create a freeware for the HP touchSmart)

Thank you!

Mioplanet wrote a comment on August 10, 2008

Me again – Here is the web page for a software created for the HP TouchSmart. Finger Draw is a tool to draw and take notes.

Is it possible to add custom icons in the TouchSmart software? We have found how to add entry from the configuration files but the icons seems to be embedded in the binary files.

Polymath Hacker wrote a comment on August 11, 2008

I’d like to hear more about the TouchSmart SDK. Please contact me when time permits.


Lynn Marentette wrote a comment on August 11, 2008


I worked on some touch-screen applications for HCI and Ubicom courses last year, and I held off purchasing the HP TouchSmart until last weekend. I’m a school psychologist who who works with special needs students. I think there is much potential for the TouchSmart in education.

I would like to customize the navigation of the TouchSmart screen for the students I work with. Some have severe autism, and others have significant cognitive delays. We have a couple of interactive whiteboards at our school, but we also need something that could be used by two students at the same time, working together, or by a student and a special education teacher or therapist.

I understand that the TouchSmart has capability of handling multi-touch programming. I’d love to transform some of my single-touch applications to multi-touch, and test them on my new TouchSmart.

By the way, I have experimented with WPF and attended a couple of code camps so I could understand the basics.

Any suggestions? I am all for open source. I saw that Java can handle multi-touch now.


Jon wrote a comment on August 12, 2008

Well, since you want more names to convince HP & all, add me to the list of people who would like to see an SDK & dev group for the TouchSmart interface. I do not own one of these devices just yet, but I am strongly intrigued and moving quickly in that direction. One sticking point is the lack of a strong path to future applications and the ability to build some of my own on this new touch platform.

But, following on Theo’s theme, this may quickly get scooped by an iMac Touch which I am certain is humming away in a lab in Cupertino, wending toward a future release. I suppose that folks in Redmond may want to manage this as a neat follow-on for their touch capabilities in some post-Vista OS, but that is going to be way too late to lead.

Maurizio wrote a comment on August 23, 2008

I tried to contact HP to know if they have any plan in distributing the iq506 in Europe (I live in Switzerland)… no answer 🙁
So I’m trying to buy it through the use of a parcel forwarding service like bongo and I’ve calculated I will spend around 2000 dollars 🙁
Any advice or rumor to share?
Thank you…

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on August 24, 2008

Hey Maurizio,

Since you live in Switzerland, how about waiting until around October and then making a trip across the border to Germany? According to this page, the HP TouchSmart should be available sometime in October in Germany:

Brewer88 wrote a comment on September 4, 2008

Ok i got a real simple question here, i have the HP Touchsmart IQ506 i bought instead of laptop because i thought i could make more of a portable device but right now i am having difficulty coming up with any sort of good case that would be used to carry the thing, i know that it has a weight to it and needs to be plugged in but i travel for around 2 weeks at a time in one hotel so i just need to keep in case with out scratching the oh so expensive screen

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on September 7, 2008


That’s a bit of a tricky question for me to answer. I’d suggest getting one of those foam-lined aluminum suitcases where you can cut the foam on the inside to fit the thing you want to transport.

Sorry, that’s all I can think of.

thac0 wrote a comment on October 16, 2008

How tied is the SmartCenter to the actual HP hardware? Would it be possible to run this software on any touchbased PC’s?

GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on October 16, 2008


You’d lose quite a bit of functionality if you were to run SmartCenter on non-HP hardware. Also, you’d have to make sure you don’t violate any license agreements.

Steven wrote a comment on October 26, 2008


Enjoyed your story. I have just purchased an IQ816, looking to buy more if it proves to suit my needs well. Is there any new information about the possibility of a SDK you could pass on?


GeekTieGuy wrote a comment on October 26, 2008


Wait a few more days. I’ll post something soon.

maximiliano wrote a comment on December 12, 2010

tengo un problema con mi equipo no puedo abri touch lo elimino y lo restablesco y no me deja hacer nada me aparece que smartcenter dejo de funcionar alguien quien me pueda ayudar ok

Care to comment?

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