Pico Projector in iPhone 5? Don't Count On It

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Speculating on future Apple gear is always fun, and Friday's rumor is intriguing (if highly unlikely). A series of Friday blogospheric musings are pondering whether Apple might add a pico projector to the next-generation iPhone (a.k.a. iPhone 5).

A pico projector, also known as pocket or handheld projector, projects images onto a nearby surface, such as a wall or desktop. It's a developing technology, one that may play a major role in future smartphones, although today it's strictly the stuff of blue-sky demos.

A Mozilla Labs' video of designer Billy May's concept Seabird smartphone demonstrates how pico projectors may play a role in future mobile devices:

Cool stuff, for sure, but probably a few years off. The next-gen iPhone will certainly have a few gee-whiz enhancements, but a pico projector won't be among them. Apple, after all, usually takes a wait-and-see attitude with emerging technologies and products--consider the case of the iPod and iPhone, both of which entered established markets.

If and when the pico projector debuts in a smartphone, it may well be in one of growing number of Android handsets. Apple, on the other hand, will likely wait a while, fine-tuning its projector technology and striving to one-up the competition with a solution that works better.

Pico Ponderings

So how'd this iPhone projector rumor get started? Tiernan Ray of Tech Trader Daily traces its origins to the Friday morning musings of Ticonderoga Securities hardware analyst Brian White, who believes that a pico projector would be a good feature for the iPhone, one that allows it "to project a slide presentation or video on a wall or other surface area in large size."

White, however, wasn't making any iPhone 5 predictions. "I would caution that White's note, based on his recent trip to Asia to talk with electronics supply chain folks, was kind of thinking out loud, big picture stuff. I don't think White meant to suggest anything was imminent for pico projectors and the iPhone, or for Microvision specifically," Ray writes.

Nevertheless, the flurry of iPhone 5-projector reports created enough buzz to goose the stock of Microvision, which manufactures parts for pico projectors. The company's share price rose by as much as 50 percent on Friday, and closed up 9 percent at $1.57.

How about a smartphone that makes pico de gallo? I'd buy one.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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