In 2007 Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone. During his keynote he talked about how Apple was introducing three new products: a widescreen iPod with touch controls (which got huge applause), a revolutionary mobile phone (even bigger applause) and a breakthrough Internet communicator (puzzles, muffled applause).
Now we know, of course, that the most revolutionary thing about the original iPhone was how it would use the Internet to bring books, newspapers, magazines, games to consumers on their cell phones.
Technologically, the biggest feature was multitouch which Jobs described this way:
"It works like magic. You don’t need a stylus. It’s far more accurate than any touch display that’s ever been shipped. It ignores unintended touches, it’s super-smart. You can do multi-finger gestures on it. And boy, have we patented it." (emphasis mine)
That patent, 7,966,578, to be exact, was awarded yesterday to Apple, and it could cause problems for competitors for years to come – and, one would imagine, provide lots of work for patent attorneys worldwide.
From the patent application:
1. A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display; displaying a portion of web page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein the portion of web page content includes: a frame displaying a portion of frame content, and other content of the web page, comprising content of the web page other than the frame content; detecting a translation gesture by a single finger on or near the touch screen display; in response to detecting the translation gesture by the single finger, translating the web page content to display a new portion of web page content in the stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein translating the web page content includes simultaneously translating the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the web page; detecting a translation gesture by two fingers on or near the touch screen display; and in response to detecting the translation gesture by the two fingers, translating the frame content to display a new portion of frame content in the stationary application window on the touch screen display, without translating the other content of the web page.What follows are more details, and more importantly, more applications for multitouch: web page content, word processing, spreadsheet, email or presentation document, a map, a scrollable list of items.
Theoretically, the patent could prevent some of Apple's competitors from doing business in the U.S. Or, as PC Magazine speculates, the patent could provide Apple with "a tidy new income stream."
But I am reminded of a scene in Clear and Present Danger where the President talks to Ryan (played by Harrison Ford) about whether he is going to tell all. Then he smirks and says "You're not gonna do that. You've got yourself a chip in the big game now. You're gonna tuck that away. You are gonna save that for a time when your own ass is on the line and then you're gonna pull it out, and I'm gonna cash it in for you, right?"
Apple has a chip in the big game and if Apple wants to it can hold that chip for when it really needs it.
Or, like Ryan, Apple could decide it doesn't "dance" and proceed to go after their rivals with a vengeance.