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Multi-touch Mac a difficult prospect, say ex-Apple staff

updated 10:45 am EST, Fri February 26, 2010

Like Windows, Mac OS X saddled with older tech

Bringing the iPhone's multi-touch interface to Mac OS X would be a difficult prospect, say two ex-Apple workers, speaking anonymously because of non-disclosure agreements. A former senior engineer notes that it is comparatively easy to implement Apple's present Mac multi-touch efforts, which are limited to mouse and trackpad gestures in a few apps. He adds that it may be a "whole different story," however, to bring multi-touch to the desktop or all aspects of the operating system.

A second former programmer remarks that Mac OS X is a "kludged mess of code from past operating systems," referring to its roots in Unix as well as previous Apple platforms. If the company were to start over today, it would likely borrow the concept of Google's Android OS, the source comments. In terms of interface and aesthetics, Android is essentially identical whether on a cellphone or a computer.

A more realistic solution, the senior worker notes, would be to add the iPhone OS as an abstraction layer on top of Mac OS. It could operate similarly to Front Row, the neglected media-browsing interface introduced after the launch of Mac OS X Tiger.

Apple is rumored to be developing a 22-inch touchscreen iMac, which would be distinct from standard 21.5- and 27-inch models.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Constable Odo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I like the abstraction layer idea, however...

    I think it would be a complete waste of time to design a multitouch Mac that has a vertical screen when a flat multitouch pad is more than sufficient. Using multitouch on a 27" screen is an energy waster with few benefits that I can see.

  1. robttwo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    These are "EX" employees because they are too stupid to envision this.

  1. Uncommon

    Joined: Dec 1969



    It really doesn't take an ex-Apple engineer to figure out that making fundamental changes to the way the user interface works would be hard.

  1. facebook_Edgar

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Feb 2010


    Why not use Dashboard?

    I think they should turn Dashboard into the next iteration of the iPhone/iPad. They could add an App Store and bring over all apps from associated iPhones etc. That way it remains a separate interface from the regular OSX and still brings apps and familiarity to Macs. Besides, the Dashboard is mostly stagnant since right after it first came out. That would change with an App Store.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    And why would want to run a multi-touch interface on a mac anyway? "Look, rather than use a mouse to precisely point to my screen, I can use my finger and try to get it into the sort of correct area!"

  1. MacnnGregor

    Joined: Dec 1969


    think of the future

    First this is going to be something for future input devices that haven't been designed yet, for people who are are not using computer yet.

    There are going to be entire generations who will have devices that don't need mice or pointers even to do 80% of their work or play.

    Most people will still do "touch friendly" apps while already at a keyboard with a mouse, so like testudo, won't find a touch screen of interest. However there will be people who are not now in front of a computer display ... yes they are out there now ... living among us ... who will begin interacting with iPhones and iPads and if the MacOS is going to run those as well, it needs to have a touchier face.

    The Dashboard is a good idea or some other layer. I sort of assumed that the iPad would have this, so that it could seemlessly switch modes depending upon whether it was connected to other input devices or not. For example it runs as a tablet with multi-touch until it recognizes a keyboard (via cable or bt) and then moves to a desktop mode.

    I find it hard to believe that an OS that keeps track of windows, docks and dashboards, couldn't also do this.

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