Did Google Leave Multi-Touch Out Of Android At Apple's Behest?

from the chilling dept

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?
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Filed Under: android, competition, multi-touch, patents
Companies: apple, google


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  1. icon
    Matt Bennett (profile), 11 Feb 2009 @ 10:54am

    Sooo......an update to from the article you linked makes the whole thing seems a good bit less nefarious:

    http://www.ryebrye.com/blog/2008/11/17/proving-the-g1-screen-can-handle-multi-touch/

    UPDATE: in #android - morrildl - who works for google but probably doesn’t officially speak in any capacity for Google brought up a few interesting points with regard to this:
    HTC has specified that the G1 will have a single-touch screen. (This is significant, because their spec is for single touch for the G1, this means that they could in the future source touchscreens that are not multi-touch capable - so just because a certain run of G1s might have a multitouch capable screen, they have the liberty to swap out parts [and they may already have G1s out in the field that don't have a multi-touch capable screen])
    The other issue is with how the driver reports the width of the touch. It appears that the “w” element is the same on both of the fingers (altough this might just be a quirk in the driver code that was commented out - since it does seem to be based on pressure and putting fingers on opposite corners and pressing lightly still shows a 1 for “w” - but placing 2 fingers close together and pressing hard will show a 15 for “w” - so I’m not entirely convinced of this)
    It sounds like the road to multitouch on the G1 could now be a little more complicated. I’m not sure if HTC could ever revise the specs of the G1 without changing the model name… so even if the hardware is identical they might have to have a G1m or something? (who knows).

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