Once the next big thing comes around it all seems so obvious. But as so many of us already know, it’s not at all easy to figure out what that might actually be or we’d all be considerably richer than we are right now.

The camera phone is an interesting case in point. Out of curiosity, we asked

all the willing respondents in our database: Who had the bright idea of putting a camera in a phone?

We didn’t find the person – if you’re out there please stand up – but we found several answers. The Sharp J-SH04 introduced in 2000 often gets the nod as the first camera phone because Sharp says so. However, we found plenty of other contenders including phones from Samsung and Toshiba and early designs from Alcatel and Mitsubishi.

It seems that 2000 is the year the camera phone first made a successful entry into the market, but they were demonstrated around 1997 and 1998. But just as interesting to us is the fact that several companies were working on the idea from different approaches, including external cameras or sensors, which interface to phones and PDAs. It’s an idea that seems to have sprung from the collective consciousness of the phone industry almost as if several companies simultaneously came up with the idea – probably in the early ’90s.

What’s next? NexusChips, a company that is pushing the boundaries of 3D stereo displays with their platform, the NX 1005, which can be used in a mobile phone configuration and supports two sensors, CCD or CMOS. The chips support OpenGL ES and JSR-184 for graphics and also supports audio including MP3 and ACC.

One of the interesting aspects of the cell phone semiconductor market, is how much it is not like the PC industry. So far, there is a decided trend away from a single strategy and a company like NexusChips is an obvious example. Another example is Sandbridge, another company we chatted with at the MobilePhone conference.

Sandbridge’s approach is to team multiple DSPs, four in the case of the SBC 3000, which teams the DSP with an ARM 9 processor. The result is a multi-threaded processor that can handle a variety of applications including multiple protocols within a low power platform.

It’s a highly programmable part and its creators argue that the complexity of the mobile phone market especially for 3G/3.5G devices argues against many of the fixed-function devices now in use.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+