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Did Apple Squash Multitouch On Google's Android Phone?

According to reports, the reason the HTC G1 Android phone doesn't have true multitouch capabilities is because Apple strong-armed Google into keeping the feature off the phone.
According to reports, the reason the HTC G1 Android phone doesn't have true multitouch capabilities is because Apple strong-armed Google into keeping the feature off the phone.According to an unnamed, unknown source from Google who spoke with Venture Beat, Apple played a role in keeping multitouch out of the Google phone. Venture Beat reports, "Apple, which of course makes the signature multitouch mobile device, the iPhone, apparently asked Google not to implement it, an Android team member tells us."

Could that be true? Did Apple really prevent Google and HTC from adding multitouch to the G1? Let's take a quick look at what's going on here.

As was recently well publicized, Apple was just awarded a series of patents for the iPhone, many of which revolve around its user interface and the use of multitouch technology.

Multitouch, of course, is the ability of the phone to recognize more than a single point of contact on the screen, and respond to gestures -- such as pinching or flicking -- rather than just respond to taps.

There's a lot of gray area in Apple's patents, and it will be up to the lawyers to define what's truly covered and what isn't. Apple and Palm have already fired several salvos at one another over multitouch and whether or not Palm is infringing on Apple's intellectual property with the multitouch capabilities of its forthcoming Pre smartphone.

Apple and Google, however, have a much different relationship. Google and its services continue to be instrumental in many of the iPhone's successes, such as Google Maps, Gmail integration, and so on. The iPhone wouldn't be quite what it is without Google. It goes without saying that the iPhone also has created a lot of use and revenue potential for Google, as well.

For bad blood to develop between these two companies could be a bummer for all involved. Venture Beat reports, "The Android team member went on to say that they were relieved that Google didn't go against Apple's wishes... Google, it seems, wants no part in ruining its relationship with Apple."

So, how did Apple phrase its request to Google? Did it ask? Did it command? Did it demand? Just how the negotiations went down, neither Apple nor Google is saying.

Keeping multitouch out of Android and the G1, however, does its users a disservice. There are many of ways that the usability of the Android platform and the G1 could be enhanced were it enabled with multitouch. Perhaps (and hopefully), Apple asked Google for a period of exclusivity, and we'll see multitouch on future Android handsets.

Without official comments from either party involved, however, we'll have to take this Android team member's statements with a grain of salt.