Apple Video Conference Phone???

I’m probably reading way too much into this. So I’m just speculating on rumours. But the implications could be huge. Apple’s main site currently has a teaser “The First 30 Years Were Just the Beginning,” in preparation for MacWorld San Francisco. What if the big announcement on Tuesday was more than a mere iPod-based phone. What if this were about a true camera phone, one which could be used for video-enabled chat?Two ideas from PiperJaffray’s Gene Munster, republished by Apple rumour site AppleInsider:AppleInsider | Apple seen launching new iPod, iTV and iPhone at Macworld

6. iSight camera, 4GB or 8GB storage on the iPhone (7 out of 10). Recent rumors point to an initial release of two iPhone models: a 4GB version for $249 and an 8GB model for $449. Both models are rumored to feature two separate batteries in the handset, one for the phone and one for the music player. Also, Apple has successfully branded the iSight cameras on the MacBook and MacBook Pro portables and it is likely that they will eventually extend the brand to the iPhone line. With music, photos, and video from iTunes, the iPhone will be a media-rich device and an iSight camera would add to the eco-system of media/communications on the device.

10. iPhone to feature ‘iChat Mobile’ video and instant messaging (2 out of 10). Again, we believe that the iPhone will be a media-centric communications device and messaging features would work nicely with such an ecosystem. While it is unlikely that the first iPhone will feature video conferencing, this is certainly a feature the company could add to future models, including a possible smartphone model.

The second part is, according to Munster, very unlikely. But how cool would it be?Quite cool indeed. Revolutionary, almost. Just think about the impact picture phones, coupled with Flickr and YouTube, has had on the world in the recent past. The move toward citizen journalism, user-created content, the YouYear…And the technology is largely there. Apart from ubiquitous WiFi to make it practical, of course, but that’s almost a detail for the world in which Apple visionaries tend to live. As for battery life and other technical issues, it shouldn’t be so much of a matter if the rumoured specs for the phone (with two batteries) are to be believed.What is more likely to prevent Apple from coming out with such a device is the fact that Apple has strong ties with “content companies,” especially in movies and music. Surely, these people would have a hard time getting past the idea that these are mostly meant to be bootlegging tools (as if bootlegging was the main intention of most people, at this point). So, even if Apple does come out with a mobile iChat AV on Tuesday, it surely will be somehow crippled so that people can’t use it during shows by commercially established artists (independent artists and “up and coming” artists already know the value of fan recordings and would find ways to promote them). In the end, even artists might benefit as people would use the devices to do cool video mashups (using Apple’s iMovie and other iLife apps, of course) but, in the meantime, Apple will still play it cozy for “content companies” and media conglomerates.Ah, well…

4 thoughts on “Apple Video Conference Phone???”

  1. Me too! 😉

    I did watch the iPhone intro video. And I looked at Apple’s iPhone pages. But there’s a lot of things I’m wondering about.
    And there’s one thing I know the iPhone won’t do, though it seems like it would have been doable. Since the built-in camera is at the back of the device, it won’t be usable as a webcam for video conference. So my speculation was off the mark. But, given other characteristics of the phone, I have no idea why Apple didn’t include video conferencing as a feature. Seems that, technically, it could have been done. Maybe it’s just because they needed the camera to be in a fixed position and they expect the main use to be for people to take pictures, like on a camera phone. Apparently, the camera isn’t an iSight-type camera/webcam. Maybe for the next generation device, but that might take a while.
    A cool thing about Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field” is that, like all good sales pitches, it pushes us to dream about the possibilities.
    -“Oh, it’s OS X! Does it mean that we could use OS X software like Skype and iWork?”
    -“This multi-touch tech, coupled with Inkwell, could make for cool input possibilities…”
    -“A WiFi iPod? Does it mean we’ll be able to share audio files?”
    -“There’s a microphone for the phone. Does it mean that the iPod part could be used as a digital audio recorder?”

    So… More questions than answers, for me.
    Still, I’m already lusting over the device. And I’m quite convinced that it’ll work.

  2. You know, I had the same thought about OS X. Seems like the possibilities are endless, although I read a note in the NYTimes today talking about how it would not be possible to load software (third party apps) onto the phones, for fear of conflicts with the phone functionality.

  3. Rumour has it that there might be some additional apps on the device, after a while. Apple will probably limit the SDK (and control development, somehow) to make sure such problems with the phone don’t happen. (Come to think of it, we might be talking about the same NYT article.)
    I’m kind of guessing that they won’t allow for Skype to work on the device (so as to not displease Cingular). Yet Skype would make the device all the more appealing to people who live in WiFi-covered areas…
    Like many people, I go back and forth between cynicism about Apple’s playing in the hands of its partners and the genuine hope that they may make it all work. I mean, they clearly have the tools (so do other companies, but still) and the vision (which most players don’t have). They even have the connections, the goodwill, the social capital. But they also have this tendency to see some established business practises as immutable.
    Guess we’ll have to wait and see…
    I’m just hoping I’ll be able to use the iPhone for brewing programs! 😉

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