Did Google hold back on the Nexus One?

January 6, 2010

For me, the Nexus One had one huge feature missing yesterday – Multi-touch. It was completely glossed over during the press announcement and when asked about it during the Q&A, it was dodged by an uncomfortable looking Andy Rubin.

As, I watch the video back Peter Chou, the CEO of HTC, is very cool and understated in his delivery when he says “yeah, we thank that this is a great phone, one of the best”. When specifically asked about multi-touch, Peter says that it is available on the Droid Eris, implying that it could have been included in the Nexus One. When Andy Rubin was asked specifically if the Nexus One might one day support multi-touch, he answered “we’ll consider it”.

The key here though is that the hardware is *not* capable of multi-touch (also confirmed by UK Android developer advocate at Google, Reto Meier http://bit.ly/5EfWL9). So while I was disappointed that some other things such as an improvement in the market place were not delivered today, I know that these can be addressed in a future software release. However, I do not believe that this is possible for multi-touch on the Nexus One.

So, I conclude that this can only be a tactical business decision taken by Google. Of course this makes sense, when they release the next version of the Nexus One they’ll really need a way to (physically) differentiate it besides just adding a keyboard or incrementally improving the storage, CPU and memory specs. Apple play the same game e.g. releasing the new iPod touch in September without a camera. I just think that Google should have been better prepared for the question since it was such an obvious one.

Edit:  Clearly the Nexus One device itself does support multi-touch (as reported here http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/02/nexus-one-multi-touch/) since Google have recently provided an over the air update that enables pinch zoom on photos, google maps and the web browser.  So why the lack of multi-touch to begin with?  It looks as if there was a gentlemens agreement with Apple from the days as postulated here http://www.pcworld.com/article/159260/google_backs_off_multitouch_to_please_apple_report_claims.html (when Eric Schmidt was on the Apple board).  Now it seems all gloves are off.


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