Apple's made a lot of noise
lately about the strength of its patents covering the iPhone's multi-touch interface and the lengths to which it will go to defend them. Most recently its harsh talk was aimed at Palm, whose new Pre device also features multi-touch. VentureBeat is now reporting that Google left support for multi-touch out of its Android OS -- because Apple asked it to
, and Google didn't want to jeopardize its relationship with the company. VentureBeat sources the claim to an anonymous "Android team member", while a recent multi-touch hack for the G1 device was made by uncommenting several lines of code
. This would indicate the capability was in the OS, but later "commented out", meaning it was left in the code, but preceded with an instruction for it to be ignored by the device. If this is true, it's scary to think that companies would make these sorts of arrangements in which one competitor gets to determine the features of another's products. Competition benefits everyone: consumers get the benefit of innovative new products, while companies get spurred on to continue development and continue raising the bar. Setting up an environment in which people need permission to innovate
really doesn't help anybody -- even Apple, who apparently now believes it's got more to gain by keeping competition out of the market, rather than by focusing
on innovation of its own. Is multi-touch really so important that Apple needs to make all of these defensive moves? Or has the company run out of the sorts of ideas that have kept it a step ahead of its rivals?