“You can look, but you can’t touch” – great advice in most museums, and every strip club. But it makes no sense when it comes to our computers. We are getting very touchy-feely with our smartphones and tablets, and this is how it should be. Even BlackBerry and Amazon’s Kindle, which launched with hardware keyboards to differentiate it from the competition, have abandoned them.
It’s no accident. We touch instinctively. We are born touching everything, and only learn where the boundaries are later in life. Our handheld devices are reconnecting us with the primary technique we used to learn about the world we had just entered. The metaphor extends. Now it’s the mobile computers that we use to learn about the world around us, and we control them with our fingers, by touching a screen. How do you place a price on that?
Many are trying, thanks to software patents. Patents have become a bane to the very essence of innovation. They are arsenals, ostensibly meant to defend but more often used to offend. Yahoo’s lawsuit against Facebook over 10 patents further proves that weaponizing software patents is the last gasp of a dying business.
Which brings me to the news that Twitter is trying to patent one of the most instinctive gestures on the iPhone, what they call User Interface Mechanics. Anyone who has used a Twitter client on their phone knows to refresh the page: You “pull” it down and release. Others use this as well, like Google’s Gmail mobile site.
But as Techcrunch noticed, this functionality isn’t built into every core app on the iPhone (like the Mail app), and the reason is probably because it’s potential lawsuit bait.