Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Apr 2014 16:40 UTC

From a 2006 (pre-iPhone) Android specification document:

Touchscreens will not be supported: the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption.

However, there is nothing fundamental in the Product's architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future.

The same document, but a few versions later, from 2007 (post-iPhone):

A touchscreen for finger-based navigation - including multi-touch capabilites - is required.

The impact of the iPhone on Android in two documents. Google knew the iPhone would change the market, while Microsoft, Nokia, and BlackBerry did not. That's why Android is now the most popular smartphone platform, while the mentioned three are essentially irrelevant.

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You're making bold assumptions with hindsight. Serious technological leaders in the space were not prepared to bet on fully-touchscreen devices (Nokia, Samsung, Sony/E, Palm, Blackberry) until after Apple showed off their implementation. And no, it's completely inaccurate to say that anyone with half a brain knew that cap touch would be the way forward. It was a big risk by Apple to assume that a) consumers would like this, and b) it would actually work as the primary way to interact with a phone. Even when the iPhone came out a decent portion of very intelligent people weren't 100% convinced it was actually a better way than using physical keys. Even now, physical keys have their own advantages that touchscreens do not - haptic feedback, for example.

Maybe I overstated the obviousness that touchscreens would be successful. But that doesn't change the fact that multitouch was widely known as one of the major advantages of capacitive touchscreens way before the iPhone was introduced. There is no doubt that going fully-multitouch was slightly risky, but just because something is risky doesn't mean that it should be worthy of a patent to cover that risk.

These were new and novel interaction techniques, where Apple in entirity had their skin in the game, spending money on R&D, evaluating interaction techniques, determining performance minimums, target acquisition size guidelines, affordances for touch controls. It took Google/Samsung many years to reverse engineer (or otherwise determine) some of the things Apple had from day one - such as the need for high fps when dealing with direct manipulation interfaces.

If Google/Samsung simply aped the technology as many people seem to proclaim, then why did it take them many years to come up with their own implementation? Patents are supposed to explain how the technology works so that someone proficient in the field could read the patent and implement it trivially. So if the patent adequately explained how it works, Google/Samsung should have been able to implement it in a much shorter span of time. Otherwise, the patent was too vague on the important details and should have been rejected with a request for more information.

What Google and Samsung did is no different to what the Chinese knockoff manufacturers do. NOKLA and the like. They make it look similar, and function similar, completely "inspired" by the original - by that I mean, a copy to the best of their abilities. But in most cases they lack a lot of the design that made the original work well.

So why does it matter then? If the "knockoff" is inferior, then the original manufacturer shouldn't have anything to worry about. They have a head start, a superior product, and superior brand recognition.

Had Samsung not been able to use Apple's R&D as a basis, Apple would likely have sold more iPhones. Alternatively, Apple would be making money from licencing their IP to Samsung. It was their risk, they should get their reward.

How did Samsung use Apple's R&D as a basis when you admit that it still took them years to create their own implementation? If it took Apple several years to do the R&D and it took Samsung several years to create their own implementation, then how was Apple harmed? They had a several year head-start and Samsung had to do independent research to develop their implementation.

My background is in HCI research - even a lot of the cutting edge university research on these sort of topics hadn't even considered some of what Apple brought to the table with the iPhone.

I'm not sure that patenting HCI is necessarily a good thing. If the car was being developed today, HCI engineers would be patenting the steering wheel and leaving others to use inferior and unsafe methods such as joysticks.

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