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Rumor Has It: Multi-touch in the iWorks for Apple Tablet

The New York Times reporting on tablets at CES offers up a tantalizing rumor concerning Apple’s (s aapl) imminent device, that the company has been developing a multi-touch version of iWork.

According to the New York Times, conversations with former engineers at Apple indicate pervasive use of multi-touch technology for the tablet that will require a “complex new vocabulary of finger gestures.” For example, opening an application might mean swiping downward and rotating multiple fingers—ouch. Considering the number of functions one performs with a mouse or trackpad and Mac, the potential for confusion—not to mention a new class of ergonomic injuries—makes you have to wonder how this will work.

The answer to that is FingerWorks. The company manufactured several keyboard and touchpad devices incorporating gestures before being acquired by Apple, including a membrane keyboard that allowed multi-touch input over its entire surface. That’s important because the New York Times spoke with another former Apple employee, one who said the company has “spent the past couple of years working on a multi-touch version of iWork.”

If this rumor is true, it would seem that Apple not only thinks differently, but is actively engaged in making that vision a reality, rather than waiting on third-party developers. If this rumor is true, and that “if” is huge, then the world of personal computing may be about to undergo a paradigm shift not seen since the GUI replaced the command line.

7 Responses to “Rumor Has It: Multi-touch in the iWorks for Apple Tablet”

  1. Bill Garrett

    The FingerWorks website has gone dark, so there must be something to the speculation. Personally, I want a tablet but I don’t want to learn some kind of Apple sign language in order to use it. I’m happy with tapping a menu bar and having a list of commands pop out. A gesture-based GUI would be alright as an option, though.

    (What to call it? GUI-Finger, anyone?)

  2. We are all overlooking something: this tablet is going to change things not because it will be a multitouchdevice, but exactly the opposite: it will NOT be touch-oriented. Imagine: while everone in the industry is caching up with touchdevices, Apple will leave them to it and produce something else.
    Why? Think about it: do you really want to first touch that tablet a lot with greasy fingers, and then watch a movie on it? Having to clean it first? I don’t think so. You won’t have to. Because it is going to be near-touch. Wave just above the screen – think Peter Postlewaith in the movie ‘The age of stupid’.
    Why do I think that?
    – Apple has patented a (near-touch) gesture-oriented system.
    – Somewhere someone said there is going to be some learning involved for customers. Makes sense to me. Near-touch is completely different. But oh boy, it’ll be fun!
    Just my five cents.

  3. iphonerulez

    Bloat? There have been people requesting that Microsoft Office be able to run on the Apple tablet. Paradigm shift? I suppose the Kindle represents a paradigm shift, too. I think Apple is going to have to sell about a 500,000 of those tablets a month to satisfy the industry as being a successful product. I don’t think it will be very easy unless those Apple retail stores can start putting pressure on store visitors.

    Don’t get upset, maybe iWorks will come included for free on all tablets. You’re on your own if you have a Mac desktop. I hadn’t thought about a digitizer version for a desktop. I’d have to see this finger gymnastics in play before I’d even consider it. I’m only looking at owning the tablet as a playback device, not some data entry device. I can’t yet see all the possibilities of what a tablet is capable of doing. I still see it as just a big iPod Touch.

    • Generally I can second that, but then again, unnecessary code means bloat. Two rather different editions of a program in a single app can go wrong. They should bundle the multi-touch version with the tablet, or at least make it cheaper for those who already own iWork. (By the way, looks like my humble guess about a tablet version of iWork, which I posted in response to another commenter on some other article here, wasn’t actually too far-fetched.)

    • Is bloat that much of an issue when it comes to multi-touch? Is OneNote bloated because it supports inking? Is Windows 7 bloated because it supports touch without having to buy a Windows 7 tablet edition? Do people complain that Office is bloated because you can now ink in it?

      I think Apple could incorporate touch into it’s programs without complaints of bloating. As touch becomes more prevalent wouldn’t you rather own software that will work with a touchscreen than have to buy new versions of everything when you eventually buy a touchscreen?