Amazon responds to the iPad, purchases multitouch company

Despite its inability to live up to people's lofty, if not unrealistic, expectations, the impending iPad from Apple is a solid media consumption device that has more than enough ammo to take on the Kindle. But Amazon won't be going down without a fight.

Despite its inability to live up to people's lofty, if not unrealistic, expectations, the impending iPad from Apple is a solid media consumption device that has more than enough ammo to take on the Kindle. A quick comparison between the two products suggests that the Kindle's days as the premier e-book reader on the market may soon be coming to a close. To wit, the Kindle DX, which sports a 9.7-inch screen, retails for $489 brand new off of Amazon. The iPad, meanwhile, starts at $499 and offers a bevy of additional features that the black and white Kindle simply can't compete with. But that's not to say that Amazon will be going down without a fight.

The New York Times reported yesterday afternoon that Amazon had purchased a multi-touch startup company from New York City called Touchco. Amazon will reportedly integrate Touchco's technology and engineering staff into their Kindle hardware division, a move, which based on the timing, was undoubtedly spurred by Apple's recent iPad announcement.

Notably, Touchco's technology has yet to be incorporated into a major commercial product, but the technology itself seems intriguing.

Touchco uses a technology called interpolating force-sensitive resistance, which it puts into displays that can be completely transparent and could cost as little as $10 a square foot. The capacitive touch screens used in the iPad and iPhone are considerably more expensive. Unlike those screens, the Touchco screens can also detect an unlimited number of simultaneous touch points.
Touchco’s technology uses resistors that are sensitive to different levels of pressure. It has said its screens can distinguish between the touch of a finger and the pressure of a pen or similar pointing device.

Looking forward, Amazon may well unleash a color version of the Kindle with multitouch functionality, but it might end up being too little too late. Amazon lacks the mobile software expertise that Apple has seemingly perfected, not to mention the built-in advantage Apple's mobile products have on account of their tight integration with iTunes and a selection of over 140,000 apps.

Still, competition can only be good and it will be interesting to see what the next-gen version of the Kindle will look like.

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