Apple's Snow Leopard Reportedly Adds Location, Multi-Touch - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

Apple's Snow Leopard Reportedly Adds Location, Multi-Touch

In general, features that can improve the Mac's usefulness to consumers are important, because they account for the majority of Apple's sales.

Apple is reportedly incorporating location and multitouch tools for developers in Snow Leopard, features that could lead to important improvements in the usefulness of the upcoming operating system.

Apple is planning to include the CoreLocation framework that had been available in the iPhone software development kit, AppleInsider reported this week. The tools would enable developers, both in and outside of Apple, to build applications that can identify the geographical location of a Mac based on its current longitude and latitude.

In addition, Snow Leopard, or Mac OS X 10.6, also will contain a set of programming interfaces so developers can create applications that tap into the multitouch features in the latest MacBooks and MacBook Pros, AppleInsider said.

The multitouch technology has a greater potential for differentiating Apple computers from competitors, said Ezra Gottheil, analyst for Technology Business Research. The feature gives developers the opportunity to build unique interfaces that make their games and consumer and professional software easier to use.

In addition, if Apple is successful in proving that some rivals offering similar functionality are infringing on its patents, then it would tighten its control over the technology, which could become more exclusive. "That's a great long-term differentiator," Gottheil told InformationWeek.

Apple last month was awarded a patent for the multitouch technology used in the iPhone, giving the company more legal muscle against Palm and other rivals launching similar devices. During Apple's earnings call Jan. 21, only one day after Apple was awarded the patent, chief operating officer Tim Cook warned competitors that Apple would defend its intellectual property.

"We are watching the landscape," Cook told financial analysts. "We like competition, as long as they don't rip off our IP, and if they do, we're going to go after anybody that does."

While less of a potential differentiator, adding location tools in the OS would be an indicator that Apple expects PCs to continue to become more mobile. "This may indicate they are planning a mobile device even more mobile than the MacBook or MacBook Air, such as a netbook," Gottheil said.

Makers of netbooks, smartphones, and other ultraportable devices are moving toward making their gadgets more location aware, so the information can be used, for example, in applications related to social networking, such as software that would send an alert when a friend is nearby. Businesses could also offer sales alerts to people near their stores.

In general, features that can improve the Mac's usefulness to consumers are important, because they account for the majority of Apple's sales. Businesses make up a far smaller portion of sales, which means IT departments are not Apple's primary focus.

With Apple so dependent on purchases from individuals, features that improve and differentiate the user experience is key. "They can turn that into dollars," Gottheil said.

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