Thursday, May 31, 2007

Seeking Alpha Pits Apple against Microsoft's Surface Computing

While my head is still spinning a bit from being impressed with a Microsoft product demo, Carl Howe at Seeking Alpha prefers to play Apple fanboy. Now, as I said, I've played OS/2 fanboy in my life so I know how the cult can work, but it's better to judge technology on its merits than waste effort pushing an emotional preference.

In his article How Apple Will Trump Microsoft, Howe first argues that consumer excitement about the iPhone is due to multi-touch. I hate to burst his bubble, but the excitement is about merging two devices into one, the phone and iPod.

Multi-touch is actually the huge question mark around the iPhone. Let me explain. I have a bit of a DIY home entertainment system consisting of Linux machines running MythTV. Because infrared remotes are a bit of a pain, I wrote a little Java Servlet to process commands from a browser, connect to MythTV or Xine, and execute the commands. My "remote" is a Sharp Zaurus. You know what I discovered after I wrote this interface? Using an interface where you can't learn the buttons by touch is really inconvenient.

How many of us look at our tv remotes to change channels? Now imagine if your remote could reorganize its buttons for each different function you used? Obviously, we'd get a lot more functionlity, but would it be at the cost of usability? In my experience, the answer is yes. Multi-touch is the iPhone's achilles heel. Its strengths are Apple design, iPod/phone convergence, and a decent Internet interface.

To end the article, Mr. Howe asks the question, "Apple isn't doing anything with multi-touch for computers, is it?" His answer? "Wait a few weeks." This is the kind of thing I would expect from Microsoft, not Apple. Of course, it's not from Apple. It's from some random, Apple stock owner writing for a blog.



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