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Apple iPhone may hinder touchscreen technology

Apple owns multi-touchscreen patents

According to analysts at iSuppli, Apple could hinder wide deployment of multi-touchscreen technologies. Apple owns one of the patents involved in such technology, and has adopted multi-touch technology within its iPhone.

Such multi-touchscreen technology is more responsive than single touch, and is capable of recognising multiple simultaneous touches - which is why iPhone users will be able to pinch an area of their screen to zoom into an image, for example.

However, Apple owns one of the essential multi-touch patents, and at present: "It's unclear whether Apple will be willing to accept royalty payments in exchange for use of the technology," the analysts said.

The market for multi-touch touch screens is set to grow to $433.1m in 2012, rising at 30.8 percent per year from $112.9m in 2007. However that game plays out, touchscreen technologies are set for major growth, with revenues set to double by 2012, iSuppli claims.

Apple's iPhone has placed touchscreen technologies at centre stage, but demand for the technology was growing even before the device was announced, the analysts say.

It's claimed that global shipment revenue for the leading touchscreen technologies will be worth $4.4bn by 2012, up from $2.6bn last year, in 2006.

"Demand for touchscreen displays is being driven primarily by the mobile-phone and consumer-electronics industries - specifically portable game consoles, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and Portable Navigation Devices (PNDs)," said Jennifer Colegrove, senior analyst, display technology and strategy for iSuppli.

In future, iSuppli believes touchscreen displays will find a role in diverse industries, from planes, to automobiles, to machine-control systems, to home appliances.

The eight leading enabling technologies include: resistive, surface capacitive, projected capacitive, infrared, Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW), optical, bending wave, and active digitizer.

There are also eight other emerging touch-screen technologies, including photo sensor in pixel, polymer waveguide, distributed light, strain gauge, multi-touch, dual-force touch, laser-point activated touch and 3D touch which are beginning to emerge.

As demand grows, prices are expected to fall 10 percent each year for the next five years, the analysts said.

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