Today, Microsoft announced that it had purchased 3-D chip maker Canesta for an undisclosed amount. Given Microsoft’s existing investment in movement-recognition for their gaming platform – the Xbox 360 Kinect, it makes sense that they would want to grow their arsenal. But what intrigued me about this particular acquisition is one of the patents that Canesta holds, according to NetworkWorld.com: the projection keyboard.
I had read about projection keyboards a few years ago and like many others was impressed by the opportunities inherent in the concept. How long would it be before we saw mobile phones with this technology embedded?
Turns out it hasn’t happened… yet. Although Canesta has licensed their technology to device maker Celluon who has already brought a stand-alone keyboard projection system to market, there has been no all-in-one device.
Now, I realize that Microsoft doesn’t manufacture any mobile phones (their recent foray with the KIN was over almost before it started) so it’s unlikely that we’ll start seeing Microsoft branded phones anytime soon, but perhaps there’s a different strategy.
One of the big challenges Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 has ahead of it in its battle with Apple, Android and Blackberry is differentiating itself from the other platforms. They’ve already taken a stab at this by making their home-screen more useful than merely being a collection of icons, so what else can they do to convince you to buy?
Given that they don’t control the hardware for Windows Phone 7, they may try to influence it. What if Microsoft agreed to give a free license for Canesta’s projection keyboard system to any hardware maker who produces a Windows Phone 7 model? What if they further covered the cost of the chip-and-sensor modules that make the keyboard possible?
Having the only projection keyboard-enabled phones on the market might just be the push Redmond needs to see wider adoption of their new mobile OS. Or it might just be another desperate move. Readers, what say you? Would a projection keyboard sway your decision on which smartphone to buy?