Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
Apple has just introduced an incredibly promoted portable touch-screen device touted as revolutionizing an entire industry. Lines formed in anticipation of its release. The most controversial aspect of it, though, is its text-input method. And one more thing, the year is 1993 and the product is Newton. The disappointment of Newton's handwriting recognition resulted in negative reviews that left Apple with egg freckles on its face and the bold Newton MessagePad and its successors all but doomed.
Will history repeat itself with this year's model? The first sign that the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard may have a learning curve came during the Steve Jobs interview at the D: All Things Digital event when Apple's CEO offered to buy Walt Mossberg dinner if he wasn't happy with the iPhone's keyboard after coming up to speed on it.
Reinforcing that, in Apple's video walkthrough of the iPhone, the black-shirted narrator notes that "it's easiest to begin typing with just your index finger" but encourages that "as you get more proficient, migrate to using two thumbs" for the payoff that "in about a week, you'll be typing faster on iPhone than any other small keyboard. Perhaps the keyboard's tag line should be, "Give us a week. We'll take off the wait." Fortunately for Apple, most reviewers have not thrown Apple's baby out with its backspace.