Can I hit you back on my new DS?
Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) finally released the specs for its upcoming DSi upgrade to its popular handheld portable. It's practically a smartphone. Unlike the existing Nintendo DS and DS lite models, the DSi has:
- Removable memory, offering digital music storage and playback.
- Not one but two cameras -- one on the outside for conventional snapshots, and another when the clamshell is open.
- A more compact design, but larger dual screens.
- Improved Wi-Fi connectivity and a new version of the Opera browser.
The only thing it doesn't do is make phone calls. OK, so that's pretty much a dealbreaker for folks who expect smartphones to be, you know, phones. But isn't Nintendo just a handshake away from making it happen? Whether the deal's done through a hungry telco or an even hungrier handset maker, like Nokia (NYSE: NOK ) or Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) , it's more of a short hop than a leap of faith to imagine a DSiPhone.
The new DSi hits Japan next month, with a stateside rollout likely next year. If it catches on as more than just a gaming device, a smartphone is the next logical step.
BlackBerry grower Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) won't lose any sleep over the DSi. No self-respecting thumb jockey would bring a Nintendo into the boardroom. Then again, a lot of the multimedia enhancements in the new BlackBerry line are also part of the DSi. Nintendo's new gadget will butt heads with Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iPod touch, though -- and isn't that just an iPhone without the telephone service?
True, the Nintendo brand does skew younger. That's a horrendous market in which to peddle phones. Just ask LeapFrog (NYSE: LF ) with its Firefly kiddie handset. Even a golden brand like Disney (NYSE: DIS ) took some lumps with its Disney Mobile initiative. Why should Nintendo fare any better?
For starters, it has an established user base of DS users. The company has sold more than 77 million DS and DS lite systems since its debut four years ago. A new breed of lifestyle games has also broadened the system's reach.
The DS is too big to be a phone in its current incarnation, but as laptops get smaller, and digital media players grow bigger screens, what if the DSi nails the perfect compromise?
This can -- no, this will -- get interesting. Nintendo is growing up, and out.
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