As a legal showdown between Apple and Palm mounts over Palm's use of multi-touch technology, which Apple recently gained a patent on, new details are emerging about Apple's efforts to prevent its competitors from offering multi-touch.
Many have wondered why Google's G1 smartphone, the first smartphone to run on Google's new Android OS, didn't feature multi-touch. Going up against the iPhone, many considered Google's omission of multi-touch to be an unusual slip for the company.
However, according to newly emerging details reported on Venture Beat, the omission was intentional and triggered by strong-arming from Apple. According to a key Android development team member, Apple demanded early in the development of the phone and OS that Google disable multi-touch. And Google, which has a relatively healthy financial relationship with Apple despite competition in some sectors, complied out of concern of damaging the pair's business relationship and possible legal action from Apple.
The source expresses relief that Google caved to Apple's demands. He points to the potential mess that Palm is in with the Pre phone and says that Google did the smart thing in playing by Apple's rules.
Google and Apple share a great deal of business, with Google tailoring its maps and search products for Apple systems, including the iPhone. Google's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, is also on Apple’s board of directors. The cozy relationship would seem to give Google extra incentive to meet Apple's alleged demands.
The G1 and Android have both been shown to be multi-touch capable, but the functionality is disabled or not fully implemented in different parts of the design, puzzling many users. Now it appears there is finally an answer to this mystery.
The key question that remains is whether Google will continue to bend to Apple's will, or whether multi-touch will become such an essential technology that it will be forced to include in its future smart phones, at the risk of incurring Apple's wrath.
Google’s future dealings with multi-touch will likely hinge on Palm's success in defending its right to use multi-touch on the Pre. A Palm loss would seem to make Google less inclined to go against the grain, while a victory would likely embolden it.