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Jon Keegan

This really does look like the stars are converging for such an announcement...I just hope they hired Jeff Han and paid him a bajillion dollars to build a secret lab at Apple to work on this stuff..Someone is gonna need to take over Jobs sometime after all...

Tim Hannigan

On the post -
I attended WWDC last August and wasn't particularly impressed with Leopard. Save for the "secret features", it seemed like an incremental update with a few nifty extras.
Jeff Han's 2006 TED presentation has been buzzing since last February, and the iPhone seems definitely inspired by it.
With Apple ignoring tablet PC's, and the lukewarm reception from users, maybe now is the right time to launch the "multi-touch computing" revolution.

As an aside - I was a big fan of your books before this post, and now you're encroaching into Apple rumour territory.
Be forewarned, this new direction is a slippery slope - an intellectual guilty pleasure perfect for people too sensible to ponder conspiracy theories.


A close friend was in a private meeting where Steve Jobs demo'd the iPhone - about 20 people present - shortly after the launch. During the casual back and forth, at one point he walked up to the 30" display where the iPhone screen was being displayed, and did a multitouch move. But the screen wasn't multitouch enabled, so it did nothing. Jobs moved on without mentioning it, but I am certain that this is working or being worked on, in their labs.


I couldn't agree more. Jobs placed very strong emphasis on the development of Multi Touch, in one slide likening it to the mouse and the click wheel in terms of revolutionary input devices.

To take the "speculation" further, future machines would need different form factors (no good using a touch screen placed at a vertical angle)... but why else would the iMacs keep getting thinner? Surely a slightly different base for them would enable a lower/more comfortable angle for multitouch (think lower, perhaps tilted up at 30°).

Why not go one step further and make the iMac detachable from it's base, using their recently patented induction technology for the connection: voila, Apple Tablet.

Of course, even early versions of this will make all other comptuers (Mac and PC alike) look absolutely archaic ("Why is your computer screen vertical?").

The question remains what this will mean for the MacBook/Pro line...


If you read the Time article on the development of the iPhone it says that multitouch was originally developed for a tablet PC but they decided to roll it out on the iPhone first.

Tom Clancy

'at one point he walked up to the 30" display ... and did a multitouch move. But the screen wasn't multitouch enabled, so it did nothing. Jobs moved on without mentioning it'

Isn't it possible he's moved on to the Syphilis Phase of his Howard Hughes progression and this was just a crazy twitch resulting from the fact he thought he was using the touchscreen he made an intern build out of spruce?

Helge A. Gudmundsen

Gorilla arms!

Try sitting with your arms stretched out in front of you for half an hour, and see how comfortable it is. Touch dispalys make sense for tablets, not for regular monitors.

MultiTouch technology comes from keyboard/trackpad technology. Check out the www.fingerworks.com website, I had a gesture keyboard from them for years. Funnily enough, a year or so ago they ceased operating as a business because they were purchased by you know who.

Carlo C.

Let's add fuel to the fire: I bet Apple licensed Tactiva's particular multitouch technology. They even demo it on OS X: http://www.tactiva.com/demo.html. Ooooo, imagine a Macbook with no keyboard or trackpad, just a multitouch pad....


Prepare for intensive hand washing.


Edit : until we rely on light emitting displays, I don't think this is an option. That's ok for a phone as the information displayed doesn't need to be cristal clear, but when you work on image files or even text only docs, greasy reflections can be irritating.


and again I ask - how is this going to improve anything? isn't touch screen just a novelty?


Apple purchased a company in 2005 called Fingerworks which had developed a series of keyboards/input devices such as the iGesture and Touchstream, along with several others. Development of the products was stopped and the company ceased to exist independently. The lead developer(s) for Fingerworks was hired by Apple. I presume this is where the Apple multitouch technology came from as they held many patents and had the leading technology in the Multitouch arena.


It's simple economics people. Apple needs to have a return on its patent investment (R&D). If it can get extra revenue from using multitouch across its product line, that increases operating income --> ROI --> corporate profits --> stock price.
There's no reason they WON'T do this if part of the market wants it.


While exciting, I am weary of the concept. Who wants to be putting their fingers all over their display - I thought that’s what a mouse is for. Then again, people scoffed at the idea of a mouse in the first place. Apple has always been a big supporter of “ease of use” and I don’t see the multi-touch technology being easy or convenient on a desktop display.


This is something I'm sure will happen. Why else would several computers inside Apple check out my blog when I posted about it in January?

See http://brilliantdays.com/multitouch-will-revolutionize-your-computer/

Squished Squirrel

Everyone is going on and on assuming multi-touch as a touchscreen only technology. It doesn't have to be, and for the most part doesn't need to be. You all realise that the trackpad in the modern Mac laptops is multi-touch aware, right?

Imagine moving your pointer to a dial in an audio app, then putting two fingers on the trackpad and rotating the dial? Seen all the Google Earth multi-touch demos? They could all be done with a multi-touch trackpad as well.

Scaling in photoshop? Put two fingers on the trackpad and pinch. Timeline expantion in any video/audio app? Same motion.

I see this as a feature that could not only work with future touch screens, but work with exsisting laptops and multi-touch trackpad keyboards for exisiting desktops.

We have all long ago figured out how to dissasociate the position of the mouse pointer from the position of our hand, so there really is nothing that says this must be a touchscreen only technology!


Yeah, this crossed my mind the moment Jobs said

"We have invented a new technology called Multi-Touch, it works like Magic... and boy have we patented it" - Steve Jobs.

And as someone mentioned above in a comment, he seemed very proud of it by lining it up with the mouse and click wheel.

Apple just recently rolled out a throw-back concept from the old Mac days, the iPhone "hello." commercial.

And check at the old commercials for the Mac, wouldn't Apple want to bring that back too? "You Just Point" How geekly cool would that be?


Joachim Bengtsson

Yes, I was thinking along the same lines (http://devnevyn.livejournal.com/3286.html). By the way, if you haven't seen Jeff Han's latest video, check it out at http://www.fastcompany.com/video/general/perceptivepixel.html?bcpid=271543545&bctid=422563006 .


Just a few notes:

Leopard IS multitouch aware, if you have access to it, there are ktext input managers that are partially there but working parts are stripped out, however there are references to it.

*Obviously leopard is multi-touch aware, the iPhone is running a special version of Leopard with coreanimation

*Apple will be releasing multi-touch displays, for now there will still be "primary" displays, and "add-on" ones you can order. Apple will have the displays that expect multitouch to be something like the screen ripped off the 15" MacBook, and wireless 802.11n to transmit images to the screen. It won't be fragile. Apple has big plans for multi-touch. It will be in EVERY single LINE of products they offer. It will be optional in the Mac line at first, and built into iPods 4-6 months after the iPhone.


ADMIN PLEASE DELETE MY EMAIL ADDRESS from my post above!! I didn't know it gets posted! Please!


Another data point: you can no longer by a separate (Firewire) iSight camera. That is, Powe^H^H^H^HMacPro and mini users can't buy an iSight.

The obvious solution would be to simply add the iSight to some/all of their displays, but they haven't updated their displays in ages. They're obviously waiting for something.


I find Hann's interface amazing; if Nintendo can mass market a touch technology, its probably time for the technology to expand to computers.

Andrew Burke

I kick myself that I can't find it again, but a long time ago there was an image from an Apple patent showing a powerbook, and instead of having a touchpad, there was a secondary display.

On the display was a representation of an audio mixing desk and several sliders were being used at once.

This, to me, would be the easiest and most ergonomic use for multitouch.


In Apple's patent application 20060022956 there's a drawing of a multi-touch device displaying an audio mixer.

I'd say that multi-touch displays are very VERY likely.

Here are some links you might want to check out:

Apple's patent application 20060022956 - http://appft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=101&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&s1=%22apple+computer%22.AS.&p=3&OS=AN/%22apple+computer%22&RS=AN/%22apple+computer%22

The drawing I mentioned - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hrmpf/94488372/

Round-up of Apple touchscreen patents - http://www.theyshoulddothat.com/2006/08/apples_touchscreen_ambitions_1.html

bob tomorrowland

Am I the only one here who gets grossed out when fingers touch computer displays?

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I'm a father of three boys, husband of one wife, and author of nine books, host of one television series, and co-founder of three web sites. We split our time between Brooklyn, NY and Marin County, CA. Personal correspondence should go to sbeej68 at gmail dot com. If you're interested in having me speak at an event, drop a line to Wesley Neff at the Leigh Bureau (WesN at Leighbureau dot com.)

My Books

  • Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World

    Steven Johnson: How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World
    A history of innovation accompanied by a 6-part TV series on PBS and the BBC, this was the first of my books to crack the top 5 on the NY Times bestseller list. Appropriately for a book that celebrates diverse networks, this was the most collaborative of any of my books. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age

    Steven Johnson: Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age
    My first book-length attempt to organize my writings about emergence and networks into something resembling a political philosophy, which I called Peer Progressivism. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

    Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    An exploration of environments that lead to breakthrough innovation, in science, technology, business, and the arts. I conceived it as the closing book in a trilogy on innovative thinking, after Ghost Map and Invention. But in a way, it completes an investigation that runs through all the books, and laid the groundwork for How We Got To Now. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Invention of Air

    The Invention of Air
    The story of the British radical chemist Joseph Priestley, who ended up having a Zelig-like role in the American Revolution. My version of a founding fathers book, and a reminder that most of the Enlightenment was driven by open source ideals. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : The Ghost Map

    The Ghost Map
    The story of a terrifying outbreak of cholera in 1854 London 1854 that ended up changing the world. An idea book wrapped around a page-turner. I like to think of it as a sequel to Emergence if Emergence had been a disease thriller. You can see a trailer for the book here. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

    Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter
    The title says it all. This one sparked a slightly insane international conversation about the state of pop culture -- and particularly games. There were more than a few dissenters, but the response was more positive than I had expected. And it got me on The Daily Show, which made it all worthwhile. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life

    Mind Wide Open : Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
    My first best-seller, and the only book I've written in which I appear as a recurring character, subjecting myself to a battery of humiliating brain scans. The last chapter on Freud and the neuroscientific model of the mind is one of my personal favorites. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

    Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
    The story of bottom-up intelligence, from slime mold to Slashdot. Most of my books sold more copies than this one, but Emergence has influenced the most eclectic mix of fields: political campaigns, web business models, urban planning, the war on terror. (Available from IndieBound here.)

  • : Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

    Interface Culture : How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate
    My first. The book I wrote instead of finishing my dissertation, predicting the growing cultural significance of interface and information design. Still relevant, I think. But I haven't read it in a while, so who knows what's in there! (Available from IndieBound here.)

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