No camera on iSlate? That ain't right

Sources have sources who have insider information that there’s an internal rumor that there may not be a camera on the Apple tablet, which, of course, does not exist itself. That’s the word being passed around now, and personally I don’t buy it. A slate computer is a versatile object meant to be comfortable in many situations. On your lap, propped up on a stand, or cradled in your arms like a lozenge-shaped, glass-faced baby. The camera makes it even more versatile, and video chatting or blogging is something Apple would be happy to encourage.

But let’s play along for a bit. What reason is there not to have a camera on there?

Can’t be cost. Let’s assume it’s the type of camera you find on a Nano or in the bezel-mounted iSight. Those things cost like $9. It’s practically a bare sensor, the type that was current maybe four or five years ago. The tablet will probably cost upwards of $600 at least so an extra couple bucks is no big deal.

Appearance? The camera can be integrated with the bezel so completely that it’s almost invisible. Unless Apple is really deviating from their other hardware, there’s very little reason to think the camera would detract from the device’s appearance.

Could it be symmetry? So you can hold it horizontally either way? A bit of a minor issue to scrap a whole hardware feature. Apple would just make it clear which side was “up.”

Maybe they don’t want video chat apps like Skype on there? Possibly. This is the most likely option, I’d say — they don’t want the slate to be so all-purpose that a few people can hack it and make it an all-you-can-eat anywhere video phone. That said, if they don’t include a camera it’s practically an invitation to the rest of the industry to focus on that exact weakness. I can just imagine the ads for some Acer device: “HD webcam – unlike some other tablets.” And honestly, any 3G-connected device with sufficient power is going to be Skype-enabled after a few months on the market. People love making that happen.

On the other hand, I feel they could include the camera just because of the advertising opportunities. Picture a person holding the slate in one hand, sitting at a couch. The slate shows a husband or wife in a video chat window, with a small picture-in-picture of the person holding the slate. Apple wants to be the one doing that. I’m sure they’re conflicted about how to do it without opening themselves up to the same kind of hacking that’s made the iPhone an everything device, but I don’t see them forgoing the opportunity entirely.

Remember, they’re launching a platform here, not just some accessory device. It’ll be updated later, but like the iPhone, they want to make sure that when they launch, they can answer all questions with a “hell yeah it does that” and not a “we’ll see about that in the next version.”

[Daring Fireball]