Lenovo ThinkCentre Touch Screen Edu-Smack Down – Google Earth

Earlier this month I was sent a demo unit of a Lenovo ThinkCentre m90z touch screen computer with Windows 7, in hopes that I would put it through it’s paces in an educational setting. It’s a pretty interesting machine, given it’s large size (23 inches, ye-haa!), and the fact that you can touch it to interact with the software and programs on the computer.

Thus far my feelings have been mixed. The touch has been very responsive, and for an all-in-one machine, it would certainly make for a great classroom computer. Yes, it’s a bit pricey compared to traditional student workstations, but physically deploying them means little more than taking them out of the box, putting them on the desk, and then making sure they can connect to the school’s network with the built in wireless for imaging, or loading school specific software. However, most of Windows 7 simply isn’t built around the touch experience; menus are very small, buttons and controls within programs are super slim and trim, designed to look sleek, and work better with a mouse. You’ll see what I mean about halfway through this video when my daughter tries to zoom in and manipulate the globe in Google Earth using the navigation controls.

As for Google Earth itself, currently it doesn’t support a multi-touch desktop (unless you want to install a couple of different plugins and add ons). Sure, Windows supports multi-touch, and you can do simple navigating and zooming in, but more complicated gestures like pinch to zoom, panning, and zooming out still rely on keyboard and mouse input. In all it makes it a bit more frustrating considering Google has implemented GREAT multitouch on the mobile versions of Google Earth and Maps on both the Android and iOS platforms. Other smaller issues crop up like unexpectedly hitting all of the tiny little icons, images, and other links in Google Earth while trying to move around the map, which means if you wanted to use this successfully as a touch device in your classroom you’d probably want to turn off many of the layers to start with until students feel comfortable using the touch screen with Google Earth. And those are simple issues to deal with really, making Google Earth a good contender for the Lenovo Edu-Smack Down.

Other Lenovo m90z Edu-Smack Down Videos:

Lenovo Edu-Smack Down – Tux Paint

Other edu-bloggers talking about the Lenovo m90z:

Teach42 (teach42.com/​2010/​09/​02/​ unboxing-the-lenovo-thinkcentre-m90z/ )
Miguel Guhlin (mguhlin.org/​2011/​02/​ kindling-imagination-exploring.html)


  1. Hi Ben. I think you proved the reason for specialized tablet software (iOs/Android/etc.). Windows 7 just isn’t designed for fingers. And if it was, this computer wouldn’t come with a mouse. Thanks for sharing this demo.

    1. That’s the conclusion I’ve been heading towards as well. I have a few more videos made with some other apps, just need to get them posted. Going to save my overall judgement for Windows 7 and touch for the final video, probably mid-April.

    2. “Windows 7 just isn’t designed for fingers.”

      I humbly disagree. Windows itself offers loads of customisation options to adjust the scale of GUI-fonts, buttons, scrollbar (if you need any). I got used to it in about a week. Apart from typing with the onscreen-keyboard (where a physical one is definitely far better) I can handle about everything in Windows just as fast or even faster than using a mouse.

      As for the actual programs: As is illustrated quite nicely in this example, most softwares have little or no support for multitouch. But blaming this on windows is inappropriate. As you write yourself, Google has an excellent multitouch-interface for its ios and android-versions of GE. They were just too lazy to port this over to the windows-version. I absolutely agree that this is very pathetic.

      It’s definitely not the fault of windows if softwarecompanies can’t be bothered to get off their butts to face the multitouch-future.

      1. No need to be humble, Franky.

        You make a good point about the touch interface of Windows 7, and one that I didn’t spend nearly as much time exploring. I should have clarified that Windows 7 doesn’t “feel” as though it’s meant for touch right out of the box. You’re right, you can certainly go into the settings and increase the size of icons and window title bars, which would make those tiny little window resizing and closing buttons bigger.

        From the average teacher/consumer’s point of view, this isn’t something that is readily apparent though. And while that doesn’t mean it’s not touch friendly, if the average user has to go diving into menus like that, then at least the interface designers didn’t intend for the machine to be touched right out of the box (something they learned from with Windows 8 and its immediate presentation with the touch-able Metro theme).

        As for the lack of multi-touch implementation in individual pieces of software, I was quite clear in the video and the blog post that I felt as though it was the fault of the developer(s) of the applications and not Microsoft at all. I didn’t blame windows in anyway that I’m aware of, so I’m not sure where you’re getting that.

        And yes, the onscreen touch keyboard is terrible compared to a physical one 🙂

      2. I didn’t mean to imply you were blaming MS. In fact, I’m not such a fan of them myself. And I certainly agree that most of the options I hinted at are in fact, as you write, deeply hidden. I was merely elaborating on Alex’s point which I quoted. I found your article and video quite interesting. In fact, I do some touchscreen-interfacedesign professionally (if you’re interested you can find a few samples on my companies youtube-channel http://www.youtube.com/user/docunamic if you’re interested).

        The point is: I heared/read that “Windows just isn’t meant for/useable on a touchscreen, periode” quite a lot. Most of it comes from the usual biased MS-haters. But this prejudice has unfortunately been repeated over and over even by technical writers all over the web and other media, and apparently without thinking or validation, while in fact it is not, or at least not entirely, true.

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