updated 07:45 am EST, Tue February 10, 2009
Android Multi-Touch Pulled
Google may have consciously stripped multi-touch input from its Android mobile operating system solely to avoid a conflict with Apple over patents, a member of the Android development team claims. The iPhone maker reportedly asked Google not to use multi-finger input and, according to the source for VentureBeat, was granted its wish. The exact reason isn't known, though Apple has both the incentive of an early competitive advantage as well as patents that might have forced it either to negotiate a patent license or else challenge one of its closest partners in court.
Google already supplies multiple services for the iPhone, including the infrastructure for Google Maps as well as the default search in Safari and a dedicated YouTube client. Separate software like the Google Mobile App also uses undocumented APIs with permission from Apple for special features such as its voice search feature. The two are also joined by Google CEO Eric Schmidt's presence on Apple's board of directors as well as Apple's integration of Google services in the iLife suite, such as built-in support for YouTube in iMovie and iWeb.
Neither company has publicly commented on the decision, though hacks to Android on the T-Mobile G1 have proven that both the hardware and software is technically capable of at least a rudimentary form of multi-touch.
The news comes shortly after Palm may have illustrated the concerns over patent disputes. Although Apple hasn't said it would necessarily target Palm, the former company has warned that it will defend its patents for multi-touch input and may conflict with its newly reinvigorated rival, which says it can fend off lawsuits aimed at the multi-touch capable Pre smartphone and the webOS that it runs.
Separately, the same Google developer slipping the information also supports claims that Intel is launching a "massive" effort to put Android on netbooks and is closely involved with the process. The systems may arrive as early as this year and would undermine Microsoft's attempts to dominate the budget portables, which usually run Windows XP but often run Linux on the least expensive or slowest models. Android's original focus on smartphones lets it run smoothly on less powerful computing hardware and is said ideal for China, where costs and a desire for Android's open-source nature may rule out Windows.