Friday, July 24, 2009

iPod Touch VOIP: Changes Need To Be Made To OS For It To Work

There has been some talk about the next generation iPod Touch and if some 3GS features will eventually migrate over to the Touch.  Most obvious would be the camera.  In fact, don't be surprise if the Touch has more features like HD recording.  

But the most surprising of all is the talk about a microphone included with the Touch, thus, providing a true VOIP solution.  

So the issue isn't whether the next iPod Touch will incorporate a microphone like the iPhone or users will be forced to use the headset but rather whether it is Apple's intention to position the Touch as a VOIP device as well as a music, video, and game player.  

If that is what Apple is attempting to do, regardless of its reasons (like trying to wrestle some control away from the wireless providers), there is something that Apple must enable that it has not done yet:  allow fully or partial background processing.

At the very least, there has to be parity between someone making a call using an iPhone versus someone making a VOIP call with his or her Touch.  Otherwise, the experiences would be different and cause, at best, confusion among potential buyers or worst, wholesale outcry from the community.

I can make calls now with Skype to buddies or Skypeout to anyone with a regular phone number.  However, unlike calling on an iPhone, I can't continue to call on Skype if I also want to go into Safari to look up information.  Once I press the home button, the Skype app quits and prematurely hangs up the call.  And as you well know, a call on the iPhone allows you to stay connected while you perform other tasks like taking notes or using Safari (though I've never tried playing games while chatting with someone).  

So two scenarios are likely.  Apple will open up the iPhone OS for apps (like VOIP or social apps) to run in the background or limit the number of apps that can run in the background.

The second scenario is that Apple may be developing an unique solution that works similarly to the telephone app on the iPhone to allow it to run in the background.  Perhaps it'll work with a carrier, Skype, or even Google Voice.  

Of course, there are many pros and cons to either scenario but I'm betting Apple will opt for the second one since it give it more control, not to mention, a likely stream of revenue.  

We probably will not know until iPhone 4.0 and thereafter.  Right now, it's upgrading the iPod Touch with a camera and the 3GS hardware is compelling enough to get people to buy or upgrade.  And word is that no background processing is coming until then anyway, assuming Apple will allow it at all.

Note:  If Apple does add a mic, it is one step closer to the video chat I'm hoping for.

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