Multi-Touch Interfaces: Apple iPhone OS vs Microsoft Windows 7

OK, now that Microsoft has demoed Windows 7’s multi-touch interface (“Forget Vista, look, shiny object!”), let’s look closer at these two products with multi-touch interfaces.

The idea is to look at the facts and determine who can really be said to be in the multi-touch race. For purposes of this post (and any other article that claims to be making any sense), we’ll assume the ultimate goal is to have this technology in the hands of actual users while turning a profit.

With that said, let’s look at the products:

iPhone OS Summary:

  • Hardware and software combination (useful in that hardware specs for the software are largely irrelevant).
  • Been shipping for one year.
  • Around five million sold (not shipped, sold).
  • Highest customer satisfaction scores in Apple’s history.
  • Unique accounting method makes improvements regular, useful, and free.
  • Version 2 (hardware and software) to be out in June. This “second generation” of the product removes any stigma of it being a 1.0 product.

Microsoft Windows 7 Summary:

  • Currently Vaporware (a demo).
  • Software only.
  • What’s shown in the demo is already available in the iPhone.
  • Only a vague timetable for delivery of the 1.0 release, and it’s 2010.
  • No details on what else the software will contain.
  • No details on the hardware requirements (critical since the solution is software-only).

Clearly, at this point one would have to be an Apple-basher or a shill for Microsoft to equate the two. In fact, the shill would try to equate them solely in the hopes that Windows 7 can grab some of the buzz of the iPhone OS even though Windows 7 doesn’t yet exist!

While the above is pretty conclusive for comparison purposes, there is even more to consider. Let’s look at a few extra details:

  • The iPhone sold its ~5 M while being available predominantly only in the US, tied to a single carrier, and on a slow network.
  • IT groups mostly did not (and have not) embraced the iPhone, thereby limiting potential sales.
  • The 2.0 iPhone next month addresses the majority of the above faults. It will support the faster network, so far covers 45+ countries, and with licensed MS Active Sync and Cisco VPN support (and other business-requested features) removes most IT hurdles.
  • An SDK and the addition of secured, third-party apps in 2.0 just adds more fuel to the fire.

Meanwhile…

  • Windows 7 is from a company whose vapor announcements are not met in anything near the fashion claimed. Based on Microsoft’s history, we can safely assume late delivery, nothing special or original in terms of functonality, and hardware requirements for touch that render most current machines at the time of release useless for the purpose.
  • The practicality of touch on a notebook or desktop is questionable. It’s great for a handheld device like the iPhone, and even for a notebook trackpad as Apple did with the MacBook Pros, but on a regular computer screen, it’s highly debatable. Point being that it might make a good demo, but if you think about it there may be few practical applications.

Still, Microsoft drives most of the tech press through most pundits, analysts, etc. These are the same folks who’ve spouted Microsoft’s vapor for 25 years, they’re not going to stop now.

It’s especially amazing when Microsoft’s approach to Windows 7 fits exactly what they’ve always done. Getting your ass handed to you in a unique area? Toss a demo (and screenshot mockups) together and announce something just like it that you’ll have in a year, or two, or three. Then sit back and let your minions, shills, etc. do the work for you getting the word out.

This practice has been successful in the past, no greater example of which was their legions waiting six years for Vista, only to be as disappointed as ever. Still, have they learned? Did the pundits? Sadly, in all too many cases they have not.

I must admit it’s a bit fun to watch Microsoft claim things they won’t have, and dates they won’t adhere to, for products they won’t ship as described. But I’m more interested in seeing if the latest generation of tech reporters, bloggers, and consumers will see though the smoke and mirrors, relying more on results than magic press releases and demos. I hope so. I’d hate to see them wait a few years based on promises from a company that won’t (and apparently can’t) deliver.

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4 thoughts on “Multi-Touch Interfaces: Apple iPhone OS vs Microsoft Windows 7

  1. Tom,
    Spot on. When will people realize MSFT does not innovate. They copy and very poorly I might add. The iPhone 2.0 is going to trounce WinCE. There is a perfect storm brewing that MSFT just can’t do anything about. How does their solution for touch computing even compare to the iPhone? It’s here and now. It works. It fits the device, rather than the device trying to fit the technology.

    Fun days ahead for Apple!

  2. The model that Microsoft is proposing is ergonomically bad. I am doing most of my computing on my MacBook Air and I love the multi-touch tract pad so much that it is hard for me to get back older to my older Mac laptop. I tried to duplicate the same multi=touch gestures on my MBA screen and after a few minutes of it, I felt my arm muscles getting extremely tired. This is a technology which work naturally with a tract pad or the iphone and even a tablet, but not so well on your normal computer or laptop screen. My two cents worth.

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