Multi-touch omitted from Android at Apple's request - report

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The absence of multi-touch functionality on T-Mobile's Android-powered G1 smartphone may have been a casualty of Google's cordial relationship with Apple — one that the search giant would rather not disrupt.

An unnamed source inside the Android team told VentureBeat that Apple requested multi-touch be left out of the device, and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google was happy to comply.

The G1 has been criticized in several reviews for its touch user interface, which is "inferior to the iPhone's," as Walt Mossberg put it in his review for the Wall Street Journal. "It lacks the iPhone's ability to flick between multiple pictures and Web pages, or to zoom in and zoom out of a photo or Web page by simply using two fingers to 'pinch' or expand the image," Mossberg wrote.

"Unlike the iPhone, however, the G1's touch screen isn't multitouch, so you can't zoom in and out of pages by pinching your fingers apart," wrote CNET in its review. "Admittedly, we really missed this feature, since it makes viewing Web pages and pictures easy, but it's not necessary."

Gizmodo agreed, "Compared to the iPhone, it still loses, but this comes down to a lack of multitouch capability — on the G1, for instance, you zoom by clicking + and - magnifier buttons."

According to the VentureBeat source, the Android team is now "relieved" to have followed Apple's wishes since any legal showdown between Apple and alleged infringers of the iPhone maker's patents won't ensnare Android or the HTC-manufactured G1.

For the iPhone, Google provides support for Google Maps, search built into the mobile version of Safari, a YouTube client and Gmail. The company has also collaborated with Apple for the desktop, including some integration with its digital lifestyle suite iLife.

Google chief Eric Schmidt also sits on Apple's board at a time when Palm and Apple seem to be posturing in advance of a legal battle over multi-touch patents that Apple has promised to defend.

"We will not stand to have our IP ripped off," acting chief executive Tim Cook said in Apple's fiscal first quarter earnings call. "We'll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal."

Palm, for its part, promised to do the same, just before Apple was granted a massive patent for the iPhone and its multi-touch technology.

Reports from last month indicate the iPhone may have outsold Android nearly 6-to-1.

Meanwhile, the same Android team member said Intel is helping with an effort to release Android-based netbooks, a market Apple says it is "watching" but has no current plans to enter.