Google caves to Apple on multitouch

VentureBeat reports that Apple urged Google to avoid using the iPhone's signature multitouch technology in Google's Android-based G1 phone, and that Google complied. If true, it makes Google seem pretty wimpy, especially in light of the fact that its Android phone was aiming to be a strong iPhone competitor. But now that Palm has unveiled its Pre, which makes ample use of multitouch, Google's decision actually looks pretty smart.

By deciding to forgo multitouch, Google signals that it values its symbiotic relationship with Apple (all those iPhone users using Google apps) more than the ability to add a cool, whiz-bang UI to its very first foray into the smartphone arena. The iPhone has many more users than Google's G1, and while some of that may be due to the G1's lack of multitouch, most is simply a testament to Apple's first-to-market position and overall design prowess. Holding an iPhone carries more cachet in most circles, whereas the G1 seems more aimed at the geekier spectrum. And keep in mind, Google doesn't really care which phone mobile users carry, as long as they go online, search a lot and click on ads.

Palm took the opposite tack with the Pre, outfitting it with multitouch--and the folly of that strategy is now becoming clear. Apple holds patents to multitouch, and however things end up, Palm is likely to be saddled with some hefty legal bills while it wrangles with Apple over patent issues. So yes, the Pre has a cool whiz-bang interface, but Palm may be paying a hefty price for it.

Pair that with the fact that many users, enterprise users especially, don't really like the multitouch interface, and Google comes out the winner. When trying to do real work on a mobile device, speed and accuracy far outweigh cool and pretty. And typing on an actual keyboard is fast and accurate. So was Google crazy to cave to Apple on multitouch? Crazy like a fox.

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