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July 16, 2007

Next Apple Multi-Touch Products Reprise

So after stepping back a bit, I think I may have to scale back my Apple multi-touch predictions.  I still believe that multi-touch will be the next big thing, but I think the transition may be a little more incremental than I originally thought.  After all, before Apple jumps into multi-touch with both feet they're going to need to be confident people really like it.  And that will probably mean a few baby steps along the way.  The news of a multi-touch mouse from Apple is a good example of such a step, even though I'm a little dubious that Apple will ever release it.

That said, I still think the next generation iPod will have a multi-touch screen like the iPhone.  And I think it will be available in time for Christmas, possibly as soon as October.  After that I think we'll see the trackpad on Mac portables recognize more multi-touch gestures.  Right now MacBook trackpads already recognize a two finger scrolling gesture, and I think we may see the pinch zoom gesture, a two finger rotate gesture and perhaps a few more on future versions of the MacBook and MacBook Pro.

I do think a multi-touch Cinema Display in inevitable.  But several people have raised the point that users may not like having to reach across their screen, when currently the mouse can cover the same distance with the flick of a wrist.  Personally, I don't think this is an issue, but just the fact that it seems that lots of other people do makes me think it will be a barrier to widespread adoption.  In school I used a 48" drafting table, and it never annoyed me to reach across the paper to work on a different part of a drawing.  But hey that's me...

But I have a bigger concern about a multi-touch Cinema Display.  I think if Apple were to release a multi-touch Cinema Display it would be among the best, and easily accessible multi-touch displays available.  If a multi-touch Cinema Display senses touches using a capacitive system like the iPhone likely does, then it will probably also be the most compact multi-touch display out there.  That means that unlike some of the other high-profile multi-touch displays out there, like Surface, a multi-touch Cinema display could be hung on the wall or placed on your desk.  Also, buying it would likely be as easy as going to your local Apple Store.  I think it's safe to say that other companies would love to use hardware like that, and they would figure out how to make an Apple multi-touch display work on Windows, Linux and anything else.  I think Apple will want to keep multi-touch tied to the Mac experience, and releasing a standalone multi-touch display could jeopardize that. 

For these reasons, I think it's totally possible that an ultraportable multi-touch tablet or even multi-touch iMac will precede a multi-touch Cinema Display.

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