Apple’s multitouch finger controls on the iPad have inspired a wave of copycat tablet computers that will be out later this year. Those copycats are likely to get help from touch-sensor company Synaptics, which is announcing today that it has created a Linux version of its multitouch sensor system.

The Synaptics Gesture Suite enables computer screens to recognize touches from up to 10 fingers at the same time. In the past, two-finger gestures, like pinching to zoom, were the norm on devices such as the iPhone. But using 10 fingers to control what happens on a screen is much more liberating for application designers. It enables apps such as finger painting, for instance, or playing a touchscreen game with multiple users at the same time.

Synaptics announced the same 10-finger gesture suite for Windows computers and other devices last year. It’s possible that the technology — or at least something like it — is being used in the Apple iPad (Apple doesn’t allow its suppliers to talk about components or subsystems inside Apple devices). But at the very least, the Synaptics Gesture Suite lets tablet computers running Windows 7 or Linux stay competitive with the iPad.

The extension of the suite to Linux will widen the variety of devices that can use multitouch screens, which are one of the coolest new user interfaces in computing devices and phones. This means that multitouch screens could be used in everything from small remote controls to netbooks, which are a hot-selling category of portable computers.

Synaptics isn’t saying who will use the technology yet. But give it time. Six months after an announcement like this, a new wave of devices usually hits the market. Synaptics, based in Santa Clara, Calif., says its technology has been used in more than 700 million devices since 1995.

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