BusinessWeek’s Hesseldahl takes umbrage over criticism of his flawed Multi-Touch article

“I’ve been getting lots and lots of email from irate readers who can’t stand what I wrote today about HP’s Touchsmart tx2 notebook,” Arik Hesseldahl blogs for BusinessWeek.

MacDailyNews Take: We bet you have. (See: BusinessWeek blows it: reports Apple has no Multi-Touch notebooks, ‘beaten’ by HP – November 19, 2008)

Hesseldahl continues, “My point in this column was pretty straightforward, and nearly all of the people responding to it are in fact responding not to what I wrote, but to a rather slanted summary by the proprietor of a particular Apple enthusiast site. This writer, who doesn’t make their name or contact information readily available would have you believe that I’m willfully ignorant of the fact that the MacBook line sports a multi-touch trackpad. Actually I’m intimately aware of the multi-touch trackpad.”

MacDailyNews Take: If Mr. Hesseldahl is referring to MacDailyNews, our contact information is readily available by clicking – *gasp* – the link labeled “contact” above and also below each and every one of our 19,164 articles, in bold, where it says “Send us links! Email: .” It is our prerogative to remain anonymous for various reasons ranging from tradition (how we started) to maintaining our ability to gather information from industry sources. For example, certain industry ties we have would likely be hampered if our faces were also the faces of MacDailyNews.

Furthermore, we stand behind our critique of Hesseldahl’s earlier piece 100%. In that piece, Hesseldahl basically invented a race that Apple has either decided not to enter or has already won, depending upon which of his conflicting definitions you decide to use, and then ignored any semblance of logic in order to declare HP the “winner” of his trumped up contest.

For clarity’s sake: With iPhone, Apple won “Hesseldahl’s Big Imaginary Multi-Touch Touchscreen Race” – a ruse he invented to serve as the unsound foundation of his earlier piece – by beating HP’s latest mess to market by nearly a year and, with their MacBooks, Apple has obviously decided not to employ existing technology that they already have in shipping products and instead chosen to place Multi-Touch™ on the trackpad which, unlike the screen, is actually designed for touching. Apple has done so for nearly four years, ever since PowerBooks that employed two-finger (multi-touch) swiping for scrolling and panning debuted on January 31, 2005. Hesseldahl’s assertion that HP “beat” Apple is laughable. HP only “beat” Apple to an implementation that Apple has obviously decided is not worth deploying. It’s like saying that Sony “beat” Apple to the “bean” form factor in MP3 players. Congrats, Sony.

Related article: More blood on Apple iPod’s Click Wheel: Sony’s Walkman Bean is cooked – February 13, 2006

Just because Arik Hesseldahl — tech writer for that titanic tome of technology, BusinessWeek.com — wants Apple to do touchscreen MacBooks doesn’t mean they should.

Hesseldahl continues, “What’s stopping Apple from making both the trackpad and the screen multi-touch capable and allowing the user to figure out what works best for them?”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple is stopping Apple. Obviously, they have the technology, so perhaps they’ve decided that when a trackpad input area is available, then that is exactly what should be used for Multi-Touch™ instead of greasing up the screen with fingerprints? Perhaps they have actually done usability testing with prototypes? Testing that’s even beyond that which is available to a BusinessWeek.com hack?

Hesseldahl continues, “Who better to figure out how to solve these problems then [sic] Apple?”

MacDailyNews Take: For some reason, Hesseldahl is assuming that Apple hasn’t already figured it out even though they’ve been shipping multi-touch-capable Mac notebooks for nearly four years (vs. HP’s nearly four minutes). Some tech writers have very high opinions of themselves. Sometimes they even think they know more about usability than the people who brought the world the GUI and the Multi-Touch™ UI. Less conceited observers might surmise that Apple has already long ago figured out these problems and decided that making touchscreen convertibles pales in usability to MacBooks with large Multi-Touch™ trackpads.

We’ve experimented with them, but they don’t make a lot of sense to us. – Apple CEO Steve Jobs on touchscreen MacBooks, October 14, 2008

Now a larger than iPhone, slab-like “MacBook touch” is another thing entirely and we have heard (and helped spread) unconfirmed rumors of just such a device:
• RUMOR: Apple’s unreleased ‘MacBook touch’ spotted in online logs – October 22, 2008
• Apple patent application describes ‘MacBook touch’ – August 28, 2008
• RUMOR: Apple’s secret product is ‘MacBook touch’ – July 22, 2008

To us longtime Apple watchers, Cupertino seems to be saying, “Multi-Touch on the screen only when trackpads are not part of the device.”

Now, we already know that Hesseldahl has problems with the “vision-thing” as evidenced here:
BusinessWeek’s Hesseldahl can’t imagine where Apple goes from here – October 02, 2008

So, Arik, why don’t you just stick to reporting and leave the imagining to those who are better suited to the task?

Hesseldahl’s full article, with a convenient and condescending* photo of an Apple trackpad juxtaposed with the headline “Ceci N’est Pas Un Ecran (This is not a display),” is here.

*By the way, did you know that Arik is “Ivy-League educated?” He likes to inform readers who email him criticisms of his work of that salient fact whether they ask about his educational background or not. He also knows some French.

MacDailyNews Note: We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that Arik loves email: . Interested readers can also contact BusinessWeek Editors here.

55 Comments

  1. I don’t care about all the bickering. To me, the real argument should be whether where multi-touch is appropriate, not who was first.

    I personally don’t want a computer with a smeary screen. On a cell phone, it’s easy to wipe it clean on your clothes, but not so much with an iMac or a Touchsmart. Now, if they come up with a surface that doesn’t show the oils so much, maybe there’s a place. To me it just seems gimmicky right now.

  2. Has Mr. Hesseldahl never heard of “gorilla arm”? It’s a real workplace malady originally defined as “the discomfort experienced by people who had to use light pens on vertical monitors.”

    Truth is that the human arm – remember humans? – isn’t designed to be held horizontally away from the body for any length of time while making tiny, precise movements. Tasks that take any time to complete, including navigating through menus, soon result in aching muscles, stiffness and a swollen feeling–that is, gorilla arm.

    Add the multi-touch interface to this uncomfortable interaction and let the lawsuits begin. Apple understands this. Mr. Hesseldahl does not, nor does HP.

  3. I reckon Apple’s answer will be just a really clean, simple Multi-Touch™ slab. Like a giant iPhone, a couple of essential buttons (all multi-functional), but the focus is the giant screen, about the size of an A4 piece of paper (210mm x 297mm), 25-30mm high and loaded with OS X 10.6 with Multi-Touch.

    Like the MacBook Air, it will be designed to be a compliment to another Mac (not really intended to be used as your primary computer), but something to sit on the couch and browse with, or design your wedding invites in iWork Touch (for text input, think of Jef Han’s ‘stretchy’ keyboard [4:10 into this clip] that adapts to your hand shape on the screen) or have a giant CoverFlow iTunes Library…

    It will happen, soon. If Hesseldahl thinks Apple haven’t got a kick ass prototype MacTouch cooking in the labs at Cupertino, he’s even more myopic than I previously thought.

  4. MDN is right. First, Arik invented a silly, nonsensical “criticism” of Apple. Now, he pretends that he has been misrepresented. The funny thing is that even in his original article, he pointed out the problem with multi-touch on a normal computer screen: your arm gets tired from reaching out to touch it constantly. So this entire thing is contrived. Arik must not have been able to think of a real topic for his column, so he threw out this garbage and hoped no one would call him on it. Good work, MDN!

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