Why Multi-Touch is a much bigger deal than you think!

20 05 2007

Where is Leopard? What’s up with those top secret features? Why haven’t there been any new displays released in so long? Where is that long-predicted mini-laptop? I believe it’s all tied together, and it has to do with the iPhone.

Multi-Touch! It’s one of the defining features of the iPhone. The touch screen hardware looks great, but it is the software that goes with it that makes the device work smoothly. A lot of care has been put into that. Touch is more than just tapping onscreen buttons. There are substantial innovations involved.

Let’s start with the on-screen keyboard. When you tap a key graphic with your big finger, it senses which key you meant with a combination of position-checking and predicting the word you are typing. Visually, each letter zooms up from under your finger to show you what letter is hit. Finally, the word being predicted is shown, and if the prediction is right, you can quickly complete the word by tapping the space bar. The predictions even appear to take into account which letters are adjacent to the ones touched. Nice.

There’s finger-scrolling. It’s finely tuned so you can “flick” through a list, not too fast, not too slow, with inertia and bounce, it looks almost physical.

Then there’s “the pinch” a gesture used to zoom in and out of pictures or anything else that needs zooming or resizing.

There is tight software/hardware integration throughout. There is a position sensor that can tell if you are holding the unit in portrait or widescreen mode, and a proximity sensor that turns off the touch screen when you are holding the phone against your face (and presumably when it’s in your pocket).

What a unit! And what an announcement! Oohs and ahhs all around.

That’s why Leopard’s features couldn’t be fully announced before the iPhone was introduced. Things like the Multi-Touch support built into Leopard!

That’s my prediction as a major top secret feature. And that’s why there have been no displays announced for so long. I believe new displays will include multi-touch in them, and they will be able to lie flat on the desk, or at a shallow angle. And, they will have sensors to show if they are being used in portrait or landscape mode.

We’ve all seen and drooled over those demonstrations of multitouch on big screens! And think about the iPhone, think if there was an iPhone with a 20-inch wide screen! Or with a 10-inch screen for that matter… Multitouch will work great on a Mac. You just need a multitouch display, and the kind of software we’ve already seen demonstrated on the iPhone.

So what will we see in the future? New displays with multitouch. Multitouch support in Leopard. And, we know Leopard is on our desktop Macs, on our phones, on our laptops, what is missing? A mini-laptop! And it doesn’t have to be a laptop – it can be a tablet. I predict a tablet is coming, with multitouch, voice control, and wireless. Let’s see!




One response

10 06 2007

Everyone’s confused about the term “multi-touch”. It refers to using more than one finger at a time, which is barely used on the iPhone, since it makes little sense on a small screen handheld normally used one-handed.

The iPhone’s use of geatures is what you’re really talking about. Page-flipping, scrolling, etc. Very nice on a handheld.

But that’s not much use on a laptop or desktop. I’m on a touchscreen laptop right now, but rarely would I use the screen instead of the keyboard and mouse. Too much arm movement and lack of precision.

Multi-touch on a huge display for specialized tasks such as maps or playing games does make sense.

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