Could the iPhone’s Touchscreen Point the Way to Apple’s Legendary Knowledge Navigator?

2007 – The unveiling of the iPhone blew me away, as it did most people in the technology community. The device had been rumored for months, with all kinds of patents filed that had everyone guessing what features such a device might contain.

Despite all of the predictions, I think it’s fair to say that the final product we were presented with was far above anybody’s expectations. To say that Apple had “reinvented the phone” was a bold statement. I don’t think they have achieved quite that, but they have certainly found a compelling and totally intuitive way to use a mobile phone.

In the aftermath of the keynote, questions have been raised about its viability and use in the real world, but there’s no doubting the impact that touch screen technology will have on the industry.

But have Apple missed the big picture? Upon watching the keynote, it occurred to me that this technology could be incorporated into some kind of future Macintosh. Memories of John Sculley’s highly advanced Knowledge Navigator came to mind, and perhaps with touch screen Apple have edged closer to making this once outlandish idea real.

Apple Knowledge Navigator

Mock-up of Apple’s fictional Knowledge Navigator.

Just think, a portable Macintosh shaped like the current MacBook and MacBook Pro, that when folded open consists of a high quality touch screen spanning the entire area of the machine. There would be no mouse or keyboard; you simply use your fingers to navigate through an advanced touchscreen interface. You would use gestures similar to those of the iPhone, flicking at the screen to scroll, pinching to resize windows and images, and tapping and double tapping for selecting in addition to new gestures necessary for total control of the new interface and its applications.

What might this be called? A TUI, Tactile User Interface?

The possibilities are immense; imagine a version of iPhoto where you could show off your photos by enlarging them to take up the whole screen – in this case the whole area of this future Mac. Tilting it into a landscape position, iPhoto senses this and adjusts the photo to display accordingly. Watching a DVD would be greatly improved; you’d have the entire area of the ‘Book with which to view it, giving you double the screen size of even the biggest MacBook Pro. If you wanted to type a document in Word you simply have a segment of the screen act as a virtual keyboard, resizing the keys to suit your dexterity.

All of these thoughts are just the tip of the iceberg, and something tells me that I can’t be the only person who has thought of this. Perhaps Apple is already deeply involved in the creation of a MacBook based on touchscreen technology. If they are able to get it to work successfully, we could be on the cusp of the biggest revolution in computing since the original Macintosh. The end of the mouse and the keyboard would the biggest revelation in the past 30 years of personal computing – and how apt would it be for Apple to usher in this brave new era.

What should they call it? The Macintouch!

Further Reading

Keywords: #knowledgenavigator

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