Originally Posted by Snowdog74
Apple has hired on additional engineers in some key areas that hint at the multitouch technology becoming the ubiquitous next-gen interface in most of their products.
First there's the addition of panel engineers outside of the iPhone team whose job it will be to work on larger multitouch surfaces. Then there's what appears to be the formation of a "Mobile Mac" business unit within Apple, and a Manager of Mobile Mac Architecture, which is decidedly aimed at developing a product line of portable computing/communications platforms.
Also is the fact that Apple acquired Fingerworks, a company that developed multitouch interfaces... In order for Apple to justify this acquisition, it has got to be for more than a narrow purpose...e.g. iPhone product line only.
In talking with a former Apple product engineer who was around at the time Jobs returned to Apple, he is very keen on the fact that the iPhone uses an ARM processor. ARM is a joint venture between Apple and other partners which makes designs for processors specifically for mobile communications platforms. The Newton/e-Mate used an ARM processor and was Apple's first, but poorly organized, attempt at getting into the mobile computing/communcations (e.g. PDA) market.
My colleague also pointed out that Apple's product development typically involves the introduction of a "feeler" product (e.g. 1st gen iPod) with a small, focused set of features, designed to elicit feedback from the market on a given concept that Apple's been toying with. iPhone is just that... Multitouch is the concept and they're trying to gauge public reaction to it to help shape how they use it in future products.
After 1st Gen iPod came Nano, and Shuffle, iPod Photo, iPod Video, etc. iPhone is more than likely not the flagship product... but the feeler product, after which both smaller and larger implementations of the multitouch technology will take hold.
I think we're likely to see 3G/HSDPA or even 4G/WiMax-enabled ultra-portables with multitouch technology that lie somewhere between a PDA and a tablet computer in terms of size.
Another suggestion regarding how far Apple wants to go with Multitouch is not only Microsoft's reaction, i.e. to announce their entry into the multitouch game, but also the fact that many of Leopard's design enhancements seem ideally suited for a multitouch input device rather than conventional mouse navigation.
A great example of one feature in particular is Stacks... Stacks is really a resurrection of Piles, a project that began in the early 1990's which outlined the ability to expand stacks of documents to see their contents, be able to select documents in the expanded view, and then have them collapse back into a stack on mouse-off. Piles was specifically targeted at use in mobile computing, e.g. Newton/eMate. However, the Newton project was killed and then Piles laid dormant for more than ten years though patents existed off of which they are now capitalizing.
Piles, Coverflow, Spaces, Time Machine, etc. look EXTREMELY suited for multitouch in which navigation through three dimensions/axes can be extraordinarily intuitive and far easier than with a mouse.
Multitouch is, in my opinion, the mother of "killer apps"... bound to redefine the graphical user interface in the most significant way since the introduction of the Macintosh. Part of the challenge that drives the need for multitouch is the growth of the desktop... when you had maybe 5-6 personal folders, and maybe 100 files, conventional mouse and keyboard navigation were easy... but the mushrooming of this scenario to hundreds of folders and tens of thousands of files is exactly what prompted features like Spotlight.
The current standard user interface is no longer doing the trick for quick and simple navigation through your mess of content. That is where Multitouch can fly... by putting you directly in contact with the content of your desktop, you can navigate through data in three dimensions very quickly, as intuitively as you would move around real objects in real space (thanks to some ingenious little "physics" quirks ... e.g. "rubberbanding", variable scroll momentum dictated by the force and speed of the gesture, etc.) and employ simpler "gesturing" that will execute multiple commands in one intuitive handstroke, instead of a series of clicks and keystrokes... thereby greatly reducing the time it takes you to find what you're looking for. Simpler commands executing more complex instructions = efficiency gain.
Note that insiders say that iPhone's forthcoming file management system will be like Leopard's... with Coverflow and probably Stacks... and even now nowhere to be found is there a single traditional finder with nested folders, a command line prompt, or, most notably... not a single clunky series of nested dropdown menus.
These design factors are not merely an "accident"... they're reworking the whole concept toward a better design.
Furthermore, I think that AppleTV, that thing Steve Jobs calls a "hobby" is a project that while not quite ready for "prime time" is acting as a testbed for some later plans they have...
Back when Jobs came on board, he started the concept of the "digital hub"... First there were applications that turned the computer not into the central focus of your lifestyle, but the digital hub to which other lifestyle devices would connect and find purpose... i.e. iPhoto, iTunes, iDVD, iMovie, etc.
Then iPod was introduced... Apple takes the digital hub one step further by introducing one of the most significant appliances to be part of that ecosystem.
Now iPhone and AppleTV are introducing degrees of technological convergence that take the digital hub concept to new dimensions... the LAN and WAN. AppleTV bridges your LAN with your home entertainment. iPhone bridges you with the world. And it's possible iPhone may even end up having the ability (through mere software updates) to act as a Coverflow Remote, giving you the ability to navigate and control AppleTV and its LAN constituents, and queue up selections for viewing on your home entertainment system via AppleTV.
What is the next step in branching out the digital hub? LAN-WAN interconnectivity. Bridging your home network with you on the go in a more elegant manner than clunky VPN software or SSH, remote access, etc. and doing so without being tethered to 802.11 wi-fi or a landline.
Imagine driving the kids to see Grandma and you forgot to load their favorite movie on our iPhone... no problem. The car's built-in navigation/entertainment console happens to be a Mobile Mac with 4G/WiMax and multiple multitouch interfaces in the dash and headrests... Kids punch up the user-friendly touchscreen in the headrest, it communicates over a wireless carrier to your LAN, talks to some AppleTV-like device on the network which locates the file on whichever computer it might be stored on, and streams the video back to the car.
This is the kind of technological convergence that makes the "computing" part of computers so transparent... the kind of elegance Apple is shooting for... and if I can think of it it's not hard to imagine that their much more intelligent product people are probably already testing prototypes as we speak.