When Aristotle, Jesus and Black Beard the Pirate sat down to plan out the patent system, they probably didn’t envisage it being the pick’n’mix of intrigue and rumour-mongery that it is today. And let’s face it, there is no other company than Apple that inspires the same degree of obsessive, slightly-scary and ever so geeky prophesizing.
Back in February, fans of fingers had the tech equivalent of a hot flush when “multipoint gesture” patent applications surfaced from early 2005. A step or two beyond regular touchscreens, Apple’s patent describes an interface responding to strokes, twists and pinches of more than one finger, controlling virtual scrollwheels and zooming intuitively. More recently, the curiosity of the Jobs-friendly blogosphere has been piqued by a later filing that details screens capable of detecting the proximity of a finger or stylus, conjuring keyboards and that same virtual scrollwheel.
So far, so good. But conspicuously absent from Apple’s otherwise neurotically detailed submissions is anything more than a vague inkling as to what luscious tech might be graced with such an interface. With Monday 7th August’s Keynote inked with their own blood in the diaries of the Mac faithful, the rumour hungry are out in force gobbling up every scrap of news and faintest hint of, well, a hint as to what His Holiness Steve of Cupertino might announce.
In the past few days, AppleInsider code-ferrets have exhumed traces of cellphone-related applications from the latest iPod firmware. Titles such as “PhoneMenuItem”, “PhoneCallHistoryModel” and, perhaps most blatently, “PHONE_APP” have lit the blue touchpaper of lust amongst a public desperate for i-prefixed loveliness. Yet the comparative failure of the much-malaigned ROKR E1, hated by users as much for its tacked on wannabe-iPod interface as for the oft-reported 100 song ceiling, demonstrate the precarious balance between functionality and ease of use that Jobs will want to straddle, lest his black & white cash cows’ milk go sour.
What might be coming on Keynote day? Well, wouldn’t it be rather lovely to see a touchscreen-with-bells-on (perhaps not literally), capable not only of recognising your common or garden fingers jabbing filthily at it, but of decoding the random swirls, shapes and scrolls you will insist on gesturing. Wouldn’t it be rather super if Apple had built such context specific multi-touch controls into a pure, iPod style interface. And wouldn’t it be the bestest if SlashGear.com had received photos and product information from a must-be-kept-anonymous tipster, with more to come in the run-up to WWDC…
Our lips would be sealed if it weren’t for the uncontrollable drooling.