Late last summer I was sipping a beer with a friend when we began to muse over the question 'Where next for Apple?' Apple isn't exactly a company that's easy to second-guess, if it were, it wouldn't be where it is now. But hey, a touch of speculation is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon. My friend laid his friendly pound on deeper app development, whilst I wagered, really quite unoriginally, that it was likely to be something photographic. If Apple were to hook up its tech know-how with the photographic know-how of another company, it could well be onto something. I think that the necessity to fetch more beer interfered with the discussion of the 'something' and which company it might be happy to get into bed with, but now it seems as if it weren't all that an outlandish conjecture.
Yesterday, Ars Technica reported how a new book by Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple, reveals that Steve Jobs saw that Lytro's light field technology could be just the thing to push photography, and the iPhone, in the direction that he'd envisaged. In June last year, Ren Ng, Lytro's CEO, met with Jobs and discussed what collaboration could mean for them both.
Think about it: a fixed focus lens with a sensor that can manipulate focus and depth of field after the fact, which would allow for snapping photos even more on the move than the iPhone already manages.
But that little insight isn't all. In an interview with PC World, Lytro's Executive Chariman, Charles Chi, was candid about Lytro's capability to get involved with camera phone manufacture. It's something that holds a lot of possibilities for them, but isn't somewhere Lytro could go alone. It would have to be in partnership with a company that knew its camera phone onions. No, Chi didn't name any names.
If any of the big camera names are going to want to develop light field technology, my immediate response is that they'd much prefer to do it under their own steam rather than in conjunction with another company. But what better way would there be for Lytro to really make an impact than by combining with Apple? And somehow it just feels right that light field technology should make its way into camera phones. There's something about the spontaneity of iPhoneography that means it would benefit enormously from the ability to make light-field-type adjustments after the event.
And it would seem that there's the desire on both sides for this, too.