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Apple Gets Multitouch Patent & Updates iPhone

Gordon Kelly by

Apple Gets Multitouch Patent & Updates iPhone

A couple of juicy Apple pieces this morning... (yep, pun very much intended - it's the little things in life)

First up Apple has potentially thrown something of a spanner into the works of the Palm Pre by officially landing a patent for its multi-touch interface technology. Credited directly to Steve Jobs, patent number 7479949 in the US Patent Office is scarily comprehensive describing this intellectual property as:

"A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items."

Given Palm's wonderful Pre mimics a great deal of iPhone multi-touch interaction (pinch to zoom, swipe gestures, etc) it is now unclear whether a) Apple will sue, b) Apple will demand royalty payments from Palm and any other company wanting to employ multi-touch or c) deny usage rights altogether potentially setting back its competition drastically. Should the latter be its preferred route expect some serious court action.

Palm shares have already dropped 10 per cent on the news, so we'll be closely watching this space...

In related news Apple has dispatched its latest iPhone firmware update into the wild. From what we have seen so far version 2.2.1 offers no great feature enhancements (copy & paste, MMS, video recording, email search, etc) but tweaks performance and improves stability - particularly in Safari. As ever, if you spot anything groundbreaking in it however - let us know...

Those with jailbroken and/or unlocked handsets note that this will almost certainly relock your iPhones. You have been warned!

Link:

479 949&OS=7 479 949&RS=7 479 949 Multi-touch Patent

Go to comments

Hamish Campbell

January 28, 2009, 5:27 pm

errrrr....has there been any final word on why copy/paste isn't on the phone? I don't really buy that this is technically difficult, or that there is any real reason so exclude it........so whats going on?

Gordon394

January 28, 2009, 5:34 pm

@haim - it's farcical, I wish we knew...

Gnormie

January 28, 2009, 5:37 pm

You know a lot of people credit Apple with kicking the mobile industry to it's feet and make it recognize that UI is a key part of a device that has been lacking in phones for a long time, and I agree with that sentiment. However any credit afforded to Apple should immediately be revoked for now trying to forcibly hold the rest of the mobile market down to maintain any lead they have, as I think they realized that quite a few other phone manufacturers CAN do it better and cheaper and will if given the chance.





Apple is acting in a way that is bad for consumers and will only serve to help them maintain high price points on their products.

HeadBangersBall

January 28, 2009, 5:59 pm

Hmmm... I wonder if they have an entry for copy/paste in the patent? that might give us some clue as to if/when it will adorn our iPhones...

Gordon394

January 28, 2009, 6:10 pm

@Gnormie - IF is pursues this route I think you're absolutely right.

lifethroughalens

January 28, 2009, 6:16 pm

If this is the case then soon people will begin to vote with their wallets and move away from Apple. It sounds like the patent for touch screen user input (as described) will be fought over in the courts for years...and it just make me even more hostile towards Apple as a company.





I know they have the right to benefit from investments and inventions that their employees discover and develop, however this sounds a bit radical and you can guarantee that if royalty payments are the way forward, they won't be cheap and will result in the significant increase in price for future gadgets, which will be passed on to the average punter. Thanks Apple!





Can you imagine if the traditional car pedal layout and steering wheel was patented 100 years ago?





Having said that, I still hope that Palm has an Ace up it's sleeve in the form of an ancient wizard lawyer :)

ChaosDefinesOrder

January 28, 2009, 6:42 pm

um... what about the alleged multi-touch in Android and Windows 7? Did I miss something when I read the patent blurb or is the patent specific to pinching to zoom?





This is one of the worse examples of patents stifling creativity - I wouldn't be surprised if the EU slapped them with an anti-competition fine...

Keithe6e

January 28, 2009, 6:58 pm

In one respect I understand why people get upset about these sort of things, but if you try and see things from Apple's POV, then it must be really annoying to invent & develop a system, only for others to copy. Lets put it another way, if they didn't spend $millions developing this, then none of use would have been any wiser, and we'd all still be using the same bland interfaces we've been used too. The people in Apple's R&D must think, why bother, let other company's come up with the idea, and we'll go and copy instead, will save the company $millions.





I tend to think time limited royalty system would seem fair, as long as the royalties were not deemed excessive of course. Then at least the inventor(Apple) get some reward for the R&D.

Gordon394

January 28, 2009, 7:04 pm

@Keith - I think that's a fair solution for everyone.

Zeus

January 28, 2009, 7:06 pm

@Gordon just mentioning that the MMS issue has been resolved to a certain extent.





A new App called MMS Photo Messaging has been released. The good news is it does actually work, the bad is currently only works for UK numbers, more country support will hopefully come, also to get to work someone else needs to send a mms to your number, from there you use the pin number 02 sends you to check for incomming messages, and you can buy credit at about 30p/m using a paypal account to actually send mms messages.





Enjoy!

Ben

January 28, 2009, 7:32 pm

I'm with Keith - Apple have every right to patent their inventions and prevent others from encroaching on those patents. However, I think they have an obligation to the consumer to license the technologies at a 'fair' price.





I'm hoping, and believing, that collecting reasonable royalties is the way they will want to play this. It would be impossible and counter-productive to stop the industry progressing... the revenue stream from licensing would be much better for them in the log run.

lukealexander

January 28, 2009, 7:51 pm

Removing the incentive to increase profit through innovation ultimately stifles creativity as companies have no financial incentive. So goes a certain economic argument.

smc8788

January 28, 2009, 7:52 pm

I wonder if this will affect the recently-rumoured PSP 2, purported to implement a multi-touch interface...








Hooray for wild speculation!

Cavalier

January 28, 2009, 9:09 pm

iphone update appears to have fixed the push e-mail - at least on my phone.... let's hope it doesnt drain the battery like last time!

ilovethemonkeyhead

January 28, 2009, 9:26 pm

palm will probably have dozens of patents of their own, and i'm pretty positive it'll include things that exist in todays phones, including the iphone. for me, multitouch is only used in one area: caps lock - *have an ipod touch now* - and i wouldn't be suprised if multitouch is enabled as a 3rd party addon.

Norbury

January 28, 2009, 9:47 pm

Copy and paste already does exist on the iPhone for those willing to jailbreak. No excuse for it not being a basic included feature though.

TheFlyingGerbil

January 30, 2009, 8:35 pm

I don't get this how can they patent something they didn't invent? Multi touch has been around longer than the iPhone.

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