Mossberg: Multitouch Interface Spreading

Propelled by the Apple iPhone, the multitouch interface is starting to emerge as the new user interface for many other kinds of portable gadgets, according to Walt Mossberg in his WSJ Personal Technology Column on Thursday.

"The best-known example of the interface is on Apple?s iPhone and iPod Touch devices," Mr. Mossberg wrote. "It allows you, for example, to rapidly flip through photos, lists of emails or song titles by merely iflickingi a fingertip on its screen, or to resize a photo by ipinchingi the image with two fingers. And, this month, Apple moved some of these multitouch features onto a laptop, its new MacBook Air, where fingertip actions are performed on an oversized touchpad rather than on a screen."

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Mr. Mossberg noted that Apple didnit invenst the multituch concept. Apple simply adapted the concept, added its own ideas, and popularized it.

Now, Appleis rivals are scambling to add multitouch to notebooks, phones, and other digital gadgets. One of the most notable companies doing that is HTC with their "Touch" mobile phone. However, Mr. Mossberg said that the Touch merely "slaps a rudimentary multitouch interface on Microsoft?s Windows Mobile operating system."

"It?s too early to know if the new multitouch approach will ever be as big as the mouse-driven graphical user interface," Mr. Mossber concluded. "But it?s already evident that it offers real advantages on devices where a mouse isn?t possible or convenient to use, or the decades-old interface of menus and folders is too cumbersome."

How other companies integrate the multitouch concepts into their hardware and whether they can keep up with Apple will be an interesting to watch as this new interface takes off in the coming years.