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iPad… Multi-Touch Taken For Granted

iPadBack in 2007, I wrote an Executive Review of the iPhone that stated the device could possibly foretell the “Future of Computing”. After three generations of iPhones, two generations of iPod Touch, and the forthcoming iPad, I do think my original sentiment was correct and that the groundwork established and subsequently refined by the iPhone and Touch brought us to where computing as we know it is heading. What’s it look like or is called?

Multi-Touch. And it’s coming to you in a bigger way with the iPad.

Unfortunately, that interface significance got lost in the hype machine and over-expectations of certain groups for the iPad. I’ll admit I was slightly disappointed too, as I wanted it to also have phone features, but it’s probably better that it not be a phone…I like to not cram as many large things as possible into my pants.

The most important thing I saw that I think everyone missed (even though Apple hinted at it over and over) the iPad is the world’s first large scale Multi-Touch computer that consumers can actually afford. The large screen size IS what makes THE difference as Apps can now be made extremely rich in interaction and features. The possibilities are high if not endless.

Like me, millions around the world that own an iPhone or iPod Touch already have extensive experience using a Multi-Touch interface and have basked in the glow of how exciting (and intuitively easy!) a well-made Multi-Touch interface is to use. I’m certain that once many of us are able to experience the iPad’s large screen Multi-Touch experience, our excitement of Multi-Touch will once again be rekindled… especially with Apple’s redesigned core Apps.

That’s where I think many reviewers and opinion-casters miss the point. One of the original complaints of the iPhone screen is too small, as users pined to use have more Multi-Touch and more capabilities than originally intended/imagined by Apple.

Multi-Touch and Mac OS X

Multi-Touch is so awesome that every pundit is wondering where is it for OS X. They’re constantly asking, “Where’s the Mac Tablet?” Well the Mac tablet already exists with the Modbook, and it uses a stylus pen. In fact, it absolutely needs a stylus pen due to the very refined and dexterous clicking actions and movements needed to complete tasks, use apps, and move around the system.

Certain things lend themselves to best use via Multi-Touch, and the web is definitely one of those things. I actually prefer surfing the Web on my iPhone as the scrolling, link pressing, and zooming just feels more natural via Multi-Touch. Only the iPhone’s limted screen size makes it less proficient to use than a desktop for major research and reading.

Large Scale Multi-Touch

Anyone that’s had the luxury of seeing a group of people play with a Microsoft Surface box knows the lure Multi-Touch interfaces have. Multi-Touch simply gets the interface out of the way and allows for direct object manipulation making it immediately more intimate, understandable, and like the real world. With Multi-Touch, if you can point your finger you can use a computer. Multi-Touch is a revolutionary game changer like the mouse once was.

Sure, Microsoft’s Surface has its issues: price (only commercially available), size, awkward form factor, pixelated resolution, and a touch surface that requires a lot of finger pressure (I’d estimate 10x more than the iPhone’s feather-tipped Multi-Touch experience). One thing resonated with everyone who used the Microsoft Surface table… they were consumed by it, thought it amazingly fun to use, and wanted one ASAP.

iPad – A Real World Multi-Touch Computing Experience

The iPad is almost a full computer, and with the iWork suite available, it may actually do the work most people need… Internet, e-mail, photos, iTunes, iPod, e-reader, games, presentations, spreadsheets, word processing, plus any add-on apps you want. The iPad still needs to sync to a main computer, and while you can import photos from a camera or card, you cannot edit those photos like in iPhoto (from what we’ve been shown so far).

The iPad is also more inviting and something I could see being welcomed in the living spaces of a home more than a laptop. Its form factor seems to lend it to a more sociable computing experience that begs to find its place next the magazines in the living room, or possibly replace them altogether.

The iPad is a step closer to a full blown computing experience, and with Apple showing the way with what their iPad designed apps can do (Calendar is a perfect example of Multi-Touch replacing a physical day planner). I think the iPad will be a definite “live with” device where, like the iPhone, it’s not realized how much a full computer isn’t needed to do many tasks (I rarely check personal email on my computer since I got my iPhone), and also how empowering it is to conveniently take those capabilities with you.

Do I See a Need for It?

That would be an absolute yes. Like the Mac, I think there always be the need for a computer that just works; is light, fast, simple, and approachable without any of the overhead in computer maintenance that the masses know as the PC experience. Granted, the iPad isn’t a 100% standalone device (depending on how often you actually need to sync), but I think it takes one big leap in the right direction. The form factor combined with Multi-Touch is a great one-two punch to making it extremely convenient and approachable.

Money, Say Hello To Mouth

Am I getting an iPad? I didn’t think so at first, but then I thought of the conveniences it could offer versus shuttling around a laptop and I’m 95% certain an iPad is in my future. The large Multi-Touch computing experience alone is luring me in. Appliance computing has begun. It just didn’t get here the way many of us thought.


For those interested in the invention of Multi-Touch and the application possibilities larger screens provide, check out some of the videos from Jeff Han, one of the pioneers of Multi-Touch technology:

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