Remember around WWDC in June 2008 when the hottest rumor was that the next iPhone would ship with a forward-facing video camera that could be used for video conferencing?
Pictures of Phil Schiller's WWDC iPhone allegedly showed the second camera, although that was later debunked as simply a grease mark. As it turns out, iPhone video conferencing may soon become a reality after all.
Information Week's Alexander Wolfe has been combing through one of Apple's iPhone patents (specifically number 7,479,949) and has come up with evidence that Apple plans to add video conferencing features to an upcoming iPhone.
Specifically, he points out this reference (emphasis mine):
In some embodiments, the functions may include telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging, blogging, digital photographing, digital videoing, Web browsing, digital music playing, and/or digital video playing. Instructions for performing these functions may be included in a computer-readable storage medium or other computer program product configured for execution by one or more processors.
and this one:
In some embodiments, an optical sensor is located on the back of the device, opposite the touch screen display on the front of the device, so that the touch screen display may be used as a viewfinder for either still and/or video image acquisition. In some embodiments, an optical sensor is located on the front of the device so that the user's image may be obtained for videoconferencing while the user views the other video conference participants on the touch screen display.
It's pretty clear that Apple has an interest in adding video conferencing hardware to the next iPhone and I wouldn't be surprised if the technology isn't already waiting in the wings. The issue probably has more to do with the widespread availability of reliable 3G data services and I bet that Apple is waiting for the AT&T network to catch up before unleashing iPhone video conferencing to the world.
I wouldn't be surprised to see video conferencing announced as part of the third iPhone hardware platform at WWDC 2009 this June. Just a hunch.
I'm interested to hear from non-iPhone owners: would video-conferencing entice you to buy an iPhone?