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Impact - A Blog by INM

The Ongoing Debate on Who Owns Multi-Touch

April 8, 2009 by Tanya McGinnity

In a previous post, we noted that it is likely for RIAs to begin to “propagate to mobile devices” as the next natural step in their evolution. We believe that having a highly natural and organic user interface is primary to the success of any technology to ensure adoption, repeated use and success.

There’s much debate going on these days on who is the rightful owner of ‘multi-touch’ – a technology that has moved into many areas of our day to day life and become a pervasive part of our experiences. On this note, T-Mobile has just announced that they are planning to offer Google Android beyond mobile phones to extend to both the home phone as well as tablet computer.

Recently it has been reported that Microsoft has documentation showing it was the first to file a patent application back in May, 2006, a bit before Apple launched their bit for rights to claim this technology in April, 2008 and well before the anticipated launch of the Palm Pre.

In this comprehensive white paperBill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research provides a detailed history of “Multi-Touch systems that I Have Known and Loved” and offers up a very diplomatic approach to the debate on who was, or should have been, first in line at the patent office. It’s interesting to note that the claim is made that the story of multi-touch could be said to have begun with electronic music keyboards.

Beyond the keyboard, mobile phone and other traditional-looking multi-touch objects which traditionally have taken a flat, squared-off form, in 2010, Moixa is set to launch a 3D interactive multi-touch unit by the name of ‘Sphere’ that is the size and weight of an apple and can be used for to display applications such as Google Earth, web browsing, interacting with applications and environments or as a game controller.

Moixa are demonstrating that it’s not about being the first to lay claim to the technology, but rather it’s what you do with the technology that counts. I hope that they can deliver a top quality product.