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. identicon
    BillCo, 10 Feb 2009 @ 7:03pm

    dubious IP claim anyway

    the use of more then one finger to control a touch interface is obvious (in the legal sense)
    there have been products built using "multi-touch" prior to Apples claim (anyone remember Microsoft's table-type thing)
    there have been many imagined concepts not implemented using this concept.
    this isn't an innovation, it's an innovative implementation method of an obvious idea and so shouldn't have a hold on the idea itself!
    this is so annoying, because it is a feature that would greatly benefit mobile devices that is being sat on.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    bigpicture, 10 Feb 2009 @ 7:05pm

    Google Business Model

    Google sees itself as primarily a content and user experience provider and not access tool or software provider.

    In order to create the user experience with Google content and products it has to influence the "tools" market. (Chrome, Android etc.) The iphone has a substantial market share and Google would like to have some of its tools there, such as Chrome, Gmail etc. Piss off Apple and that might become a problem.

    Not saying that this is right, unfortunately just a business reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Joshua, 10 Feb 2009 @ 9:05pm

    It was probably commented out because not all the phones that can or will be able to operate Android come with a touch screen and even the ones that do it could be a pain to use multi-touch on them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Stanley, 10 Feb 2009 @ 11:10pm

    Hello... I'm a Mac

    "And I'm a Google."
    "Hold still, Google."
    "What are you doing to my pants, Mac?"
    "I'm trying to sue them off of you, so stand still... actually if you could lift your leg for me, that'd help."
    "Oh, well in a patronizing tone I'm going to use my leverage as a popular product to ironically condemn you for losing public face, using the same slur-campaign methodry you've used yourself, in recent memory."
    "Sounds great... hold still, I've almost got it!"


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    illegalprelude, 10 Feb 2009 @ 11:37pm


    Simple. Its called Good Business. Their last and every previous quarter earnings report would agree with me

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Dave, 11 Feb 2009 @ 7:19am

    Commenting out features

    This isn't new or news. Verizon does this regularly. My V3m Razr had several features disabled by Verizon. The first disabled the ability to use Motorola Phone Tools to copy media to and from the phone. The second disabled several of the Bluetooth features.

    More recently, I understand that Blackberries have been configured not to work with 3rd party GPS apps, so that you will be forced to use Verizon's paid services.

    Verizon never gives anything away that can be unbundled and sold for an additional cost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. 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:


    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).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    LBD, 11 Feb 2009 @ 11:40am


    Android runs linux, so google did this likely to help their relationships with Apple. After all, it literally cost google nothing to do this, and multi-touch can be re-enabled, well, with a touch. There will likely be many free patches to do so.

    So, consumers get to keep the functionality, Google gets to worm it's way into apple's pants... and apple gets a good stroking followed by a blackjack to the back of the head and waking up pantless and chained to a bed with Google having stolen it's walet and pants

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Matt Bennett, 11 Feb 2009 @ 11:55am

    Did you not just read my comment? It's almost certainly the case that HTC actually was planning to put a 0ne-touch screen in there, and it just turned out the multi-touch screen was the easiest to procure for the initial model run.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Apr 2009 @ 12:08pm

    Re: Business

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2010 @ 2:03pm

    Maybe they are just waiting...

    ... to see if anyone else gets sued successfully for multi touch first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    thod, 14 May 2011 @ 11:22pm

    I think two touch is good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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