I have to wonder. On the face of it, the idea of a mobile phone sans buttons seems ridiculous to the extreme, but why have buttons anyway?
For a start, if you have things like buttons, you have extra design costs, which leads to extra parts costs, which leads to increased production costs.
If you just pour the money into a good quality touch screen and run the interaction through that, you have something that’s a little harder to break .. assuming you don’t go and put a screwdriver or a fork through the screen, that is.
Anyway, if we haven’t got a keyboard, what’s with the blank slot underneath? Why have that on there at all?
As soon as I saw that blank, I immediately thought of the May 12, 2005 Apple patent filing:
“The touch sensing input device is capable of sensing the mechanical inputs provided by the mechanical overlay and causing the host computing device to respond to those inputs,… The inputs of the mechanical overlay may be assignable or they may be configured for a particular application of the host computing device.”
What with Apple rolling out games for the current crop of iPods, with the prospect of an Apple-branded mobile phone in the offing, we have all of the ingredients for a small, portable games console, plus mobile phone .. plus music player.
But we’ve been here before with the Nokia N-Gage, which was a disappointment not just for me, but also Nokia and most probably the people who bought one:
“[The Nokia N-Gage] isn’t the most practical phone to use, being unergonomic as a phone. The graphics aren’t all that great either, and the fact that you have to remove the battery to change games makes it a bit awkward.”
“As a phone, the N-Gage is hard to recommend. The software and user interface are excellent, but its console design makes the hardware unfriendly and clumsy to use for voice unless you pay extra for a Bluetooth headset.
As a console, the N-Gage is flawed, but a gem nonetheless. We expected to be disappointed, but ultimately enjoyed using it. It’s really only the screen size that lets it down. Like all console in their early days, there aren’t enough games, but hopefully they’ll come. N-Gage uses the Mophun games engine, also used by Sony Ericsson and others, so game developers are not working in a vacuum.”
I’m guessing Apple has had lengthy conversations with people in the know over at the Nokia HQ, given that Apple and Nokia have a dialogue going on. Or maybe not too much of a conversation, given that Apple has a knack of doing a better job than those that come before them.
In addition, Apple has also tried their hand in the games console market before with the devlopment of the Pippin, codeveloped as it was with Bandai, and both came away with their fingers somewhat burnt for their troubles.
I’d say there’s a good chance that Apple could be hoping to enter the portable game console market, but doing so very wisely by not producing an out-and-out games console, but as a broader initiative spanning several different devices. And if Apple is to go down this route, there’s the inevitable temptation to move Mac OS X into position as the embedded operating system of choice:
“People familiar with the strategy tell AppleInsider that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has been developing an operating system based on the core technologies of Mac OS X for use with embedded devices.”
So with the iTV, the iPod range and a possible Apple-made mobile phone, with the right cast of players, everyone with a part to play, Apple could be controlling the horizontal and the vertical of small silver screen near you in the not-too-distant future…