Report: Apple nixed Android's multitouch

Report: Apple nixed Android's multitouch

Summary: According to a report, Apple allegedly asked Google not to use multi-touch technology in its Android phone and Google agreed - in order to maintain its relationship.

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One of the chief complaints about Google's Android is its lack of multitouch support.

Now, according to a VentureBeat report by M.G. Siegler, we may have an idea of why Google skipped the feature on its mobile operating system:

Apple, which of course makes the signature multi-touch mobile device, the iPhone, apparently asked Google not to implement it, and Google agreed, an Android team member tells us.

Further, the Android team member went on to say that they were relieved that Google didn't go against Apple's wishes, given the legal storm that appears to be brewing between Apple and Palm, which is using multi-touch technology in its new Pre phone. Even if Apple ultimately decides not to pursue legal action against Palm (it's not yet clear how likely that is, but Apple does have an impressive array of patents), the situation has likely soured the relationship between the two companies. Google, it seems, wants no part in ruining its relationship with Apple.

While this all may sound a bit far-fetched, it's worth noting that last month Apple was awarded a patent titled "Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics." Patent No. 7,479,949, originally filed in September 2007, covers the multitouch and all its gestures (swipe, pinch, rotation, etc.) that are used on the Apple iPhone.

A day after that patent was awarded, Apple COO Tim Cook warned iPhone competitors they should understand that Apple "will not stand for having our (intellectual property) ripped off, and we'll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal." Those comments, made during Apple's fiscal first-quarter earnings call, were believed to be intended for Palm even though Cook did not single out any particular company in making his comments.

Siegler goes on to address the Palm connection:

While the connection between Apple and Palm would seem like it should be strong, given how many former Apple employees now work at Palm, Google and Apple are actually more aligned. Not only does Google specially tailor a ton of its products for the iPhone (both with apps like Maps and Google Search, and specially formatted webpages), but its chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is on Apple's board of directors. And don't underestimate the fact that both share a chief rival: Microsoft.

While the open-source Android can be modified to support multitouch with a few well-placed lines of code, one has to wonder why the feature wasn't initially supported and when Google will officially do so.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Google, Hardware

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34 comments
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  • Just one more reason not to buy EITHER phone. (nt)

    ...
    IT_Guy_z
  • Windows Mobile rules anyway...

    Even without multi-touch, the Start button is where it is at. I ask, is it more intuitive to drag with your fingers then use a stylus and go "Start,Internet,Web Browsers,Internet Explorer"? Apple needs to accept the fact that although they have had some mild success, Windows Mobile 8 (currently in UML stage) will win the day.
    Mike Cox
    • I agree!

      I hope ms keeps the Start button in WM 7 when it comes out in 2010. It was
      innovative in 1995 and is still so today!

      Can't wait for their App Store as well which should really make buying apps
      easy. What did they name it again? Bazzare? Brazier? Something like that...
      rynning
      • Holy irony overload, Batman!

        Most of the time, Mike reigns alone and supreme, and when someone tries the same shtick, they look foolish by comparison. But rynning actually is doing it right.
        heres_johnny
    • Had some mild success?

      I wouldn't leave any of your open drinks alone with your rep today. He's not going to like that statement at all.
      Michael Kelly
    • You must be joking or you are a troll

      "Start,Internet,Web Browsers,Internet Explorer"
      vs. touching the Safari icon on the main screen? riiiiight.
      proadventurer
      • Obviously you are new here.

        Mike Cox is one of ZDNet's finest Microsoft champions. A man worthy of great respect from the IT industry.

        Mike's relationship with his Microsoft rep(s) is legendary here at ZDNet. It is a relationship (and I think I speak for all those who have followed Mike's insightful comments over the years when I say we truly admire and envy that relationship) born from years of trust, and hours of tireless collaboration, which have resulted in a beautiful symbiotic melding of the minds.

        Mike's knowledge, and truly heartfelt love, of everything Microsoft is a gift, and those of us who are unfortunate enough not to possess such loyalty, wait on his every word in the hopes that one day, we too may reach his level of technical nirvana.

        Thanks Mike, from all of us here at ZDNet...and please keep the posts coming. Our day isn't complete without your musings.

        No, Mike is not a troll, he is a beloved member of the ZDNet family.
        IT_Guy_z
      • ..........

        aish, you must be joking.
        is that not what shortcuts are for?
        lol_camel
  • The industry should collectively fight the multi-touch patent

    I think if Apple starts threatening companies, the industry should collectively challenge the multi-touch patent. I remember in the 80s, Apple bullied other companies over their use of GUIs. Also, there needs to be some organization in the computer industry against the use of software patents which stifle innovation. One thing is for sure, the industry should not allow Palm to fight alone against Apple over multi-touch.
    P. Douglas
    • Yeah...

      That's not how patents work.

      One company comes up with something really interesting, and patents it.

      If another company wants in on the action, they will have to license the
      technology.

      But in a way, I like your idea.

      If a dozen companies were to simultaneously sue Microsoft to open up Windows
      to their competitors...

      Oh, wait, you didn't think of that?


      Huh. Well, wouldn't it be interesting if that happened? Suppose an established
      company (not Apple, obviously) were to get their hands on the whole Windows
      code package, and wrote a spiffy Windows GUI and runtime sandbox on top of
      Linux?

      Hmm. Windows functionality, but NOT from Microsoft.

      That's a different can of worms, now isn't it?
      Jkirk3279
  • FYI, Apple probably violating UD's patent on Multi-touch

    Has Apple goes to the court, they could lose that precious multi-touch patent due to prior art and the team "Multi-touch" along the way:

    http://industry.bnet.com/technology/1000741/can-apples-multi-touch-patent-withstand-scrutiny-or-challenge/

    It would be an eye opener if Apple lose that patent and trademark and everybody is making MT interface...
    Samic
    • Also the Appeals Court ...

      ... ruled recently that software used in general computing devices cannot be patented - only software used in highly specific devices.

      http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20081030/1117172691.shtml
      P. Douglas
  • I haven't found myself wanting multi-touch

    This is just personal preference of course, but I have a G1 and my mother has an iPhone, and quite honestly I prefer the controls on my G1 over the iPhone. Once you get past the cool factor, I find that a few quick thumb taps work better for me than having to use a second hand, and I'm not dexterous enough to both hold the phone and use two fingers on the same hand to swipe a screen with.
    Michael Kelly
    • I've asked time and time again for useful examples of multi-touch

      and the best that iPhone users could do is list 5 games. I recently read a conversation on ZDNet where one iPhone user learned that you didn't have to use 2 hands to zoom in and out on Safari, you could double tap to zoom in and double tap again to zoom out. He was so excited to learn that!

      While I see great uses for multi-touch on big devices and [b]especially[/b] for big devices that are being used simultaneously by multiple people, I think multi-touch on a mobile device has to be the #1 most over-hyped feature [b]ever[/b]. But hey, it sure is cool in those 5 games!
      NonZealot
      • not that much

        I can see manipulating the environment (moving windows around, resizing things, switching apps, etc), but I'm not sure it has all that much application within programs, even in photo apps, esp on mobile devices other than touchpads.

        Single-touch is far more useful and intuitive (and known), while multi-touch takes time, and with Apple's patents, will prob result in different companies having to use different 'actions' to accomplish the same tasks - which ruins the whole deal (imagine if all our keyboards had to be different between manufacturers because one had the qwerty patent and wouldn't license it out).

        I love the idea of multi-touch, I just haven't seen any applications of it that make it indispensable.
        coffeeshark
      • I'm not sure why ...

        ... games are not legitimate applications in your mind. That's just a weird assement, especially for a consumer device.

        The best uses of multitouch currently are games and virtual musical instruments. I attribute that more to the lack of experience on the part of the developers than the lack of possibility that the functionality opens up.

        There is really interesting stuff being done to leverage the accelerometer and the microphone as input devices as well. Most of these are games, or "non-productivity" apps, so you probably wouldn't "count" them either. I think developers are just getting used to what the technology allows them to do.

        Also on the downside, the economics of the App Store seem to have shaken out that a lot of people are pumping out relatively simple apps very quickly. It is disconcerting when several of the top apps are fart noise makers. I wish I was kidding about that.

        I agree with you that multitouch gets better with larger devices. Apple's implementation for gestures on laptops is very good. MS Surface looks really cool, though I haven't seen one in person to try.

        However, I think there is still value in mobile multitouch. For zoom and rotate functionality alone, it's worth it to me to have on the phone. Whether it's a feature in search of an application, only time will tell. But, I suspect not.
        RationalGuy
  • Slight correction

    [i]Patent No. 7,479,949, originally filed in September 2007, covers the multitouch and all its gestures (swipe, pinch, rotation, etc.) that are used on the Apple iPhone.[/i]

    Actually, this patent [b]also[/b] covers single touch. The patent very clearly states that users may be using one or more fingers.
    NonZealot
  • Anyone still believe that Apple isn't a 900lb gorilla?

    Apple and their flotilla of lawyers are the technological equivalent of Al Quaeda and here we have the proof. [i]Don't implement features or we will blow you up (with endless lawsuits).[/i]

    I also want all of you to truly think about what happened here. We have 2 companies that are supposedly competing in the cell market and we have one bully telling the other company what they will and will not include in their phones. Think about that for a second. Who could possibly feel good about what just happened? I'm disgusted with Apple and maybe even a bit more disgusted with Google for giving in.
    NonZealot
    • Oh CAN it...

      Everyone protects their intellectual property. If someone was trying to implement one of your patented ideas and you had a flotilla of lawyers you would go after them too. IP is IP, and if Apple feels that multitouch is their IP then they should take it to court to protect it, and let the court decide whether it's justified or not. Every business with ideas does this. Do you think if Apple decided to use one of Google's patents then Google would sit back and let them?

      And how is either of these companies to be considered a "bully" it's not like one is really bigger or more powerful than the other. In Palm's case, yes. But not in Apple and Google.

      And the Al Qaeda comment is just brainless sensationalism. Suggesting that a copyright or patent legal case is terrorism shows your absolute lack of knowledge about business, or the world for that matter.
      Metronome49
      • Here we go - deja vu all over again!

        Yes, Apple has every right to protect their IP - if it in fact is actually their IP (see previous entry with contrary article ref). Seems this is how they behaved back in the 80's with their hardware and OS. Look where that got the idiots! What is their market share now? 10 percent, 15 of the PC market?

        Nobody in the professional and business world takes Apple seriously as a platform. They shouldn't be taken seriously as a business either. Stupid, selfish (greedy) decisions like this are part of Apple's history, and this is an example of history repeating itself.

        For the record, I don't think this is actually their IP anyway. Hiring an inventor AFTER he/she invents it shouldn't make it yours, at least in terms of IP and a patent.

        Thanks Steve Jobs, and keep providing the great material!

        HiBeamR_z