Apple, Google join forces for 'ultimate phone'

Spherical challenge


April Fool Apple and Google have abandoned their individual mobile phone projects for a joint venture, The Register has learned.

Apple will mothball its iPhone, announced in January, in favour of a new device that serves as a platform for Google's contextual advertising business.

Work on the project, codenamed "ID", began shortly after Google CEO Eric Schmidt joined Apple's board of directors last August. Sneak pictures of the device, below, show the fruits of the joint venture. It's now possible to see how the iPhone was merely an early concept prototype for the ideas the two companies were developing.

In keeping with the iPod tradition, the "ID" has no power switch. In fact, there are no buttons at all. More surprisingly, Jonathan Ives' industrial design means there's no room for a SIM card, or any embedded cellullar radio circuitry.

As a consequence, the "ID" is incapable of making or receiving telephone calls - but Apple says this is a feature most of its target market won't miss.

"People said they wanted an iPhone above all, to make a statement about themselves," an Apple engineering source told us. "Let's face it, they don't like talking and most of them have no one to call anyway."

"When you take the 'Phone' from 'iPhone' you're left with er, 'I'," a senior Apple source told us. "So we've focussed on satisfying the I".

Sources revealed that while designing the now-abandoned iPhone, engineers debated long and hard whether to include an Address Book at all.

"These things are empty, we discovered," a source close to the project told us. "A number of us wanted to use that valuable ROM space for something people would actually use - like wallpaper, or a Sudoku game".

As well as being a powerful personal lifestyle statement, the "ID" will provide an advertising platform for Google's formidable information store.

Google will mine its archive of the owner's GMail account, dental records, credit card information, lists of pastimes entered into social networking sites, chat sessions, financial history, comments left on blogs, records of PTA meetings, shout outs to da posse, downloaded recipes, medical history, Amazon wish-lists, MySpace friends, characters adopted in RPG games and fragging data, purchasing histories, and of course, their personal search queries.

Google's Apple Phone: Information on tap

These are then combined with location data to provide a constant stream of personalized, relevant advertisements.

For example if the "ID" user is in a shopping mall, the device will flash a message such as "Buy Viagra".

Or if the device owner is at a sports event, it will flash a message such as "Buy Viagra".

For sexual-related queries, the "ID" retrieves information from the pertinent Wikipedia page.

Asked about privacy concerns, Google spokesman Nate Late said the device would flash the message, "WE'RE NOT EVIL" three times, and change its hue to resemble the reassuring coloured balls of the Google logo.

"Google has long described itself as 'the closest thing to the web's ultimate answer machine'," he continued. "Now you don't have to ask the question!"

Privacy watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) welcomed the concession.

Putting the "I" into CalifornIa

Early reviews are positive.

In a piece prepared months in advance, the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg gave the "ID" a glowing write-up.

Your pointless information everywhere

"With my assistant Kara I have been imagining what a "ID" would look like. In my imagination, set up is easy and the device works capably. Apple's stroke of genius in removing the telephony features from a phone puts it far ahead of its competitors by making mobile telephony simple to use. In my imagination, this is the most usable smartphone ever imagined. Will that do, Steve?"

Speaking to a select group of confidantes, an emotional Steve Jobs said the "id" represented the culmination of a lifetime's work.

"I've spent thirty years following my interpretation of the Mayahana tradition," he told the New York Times John Markoff.

"Traditional Buddhism means rejecting the material world. But I've reinterpreted it to mean that people can find meaning in life by buying pointless trinkets. With the "id" I think I have finally succeeded. The circle is complete."

The "ID" will be sold in two versions. Premium retails for $499, while a budget Standard edition will retail for $399. The Standard ID package includes no hardware at all, but maintains cardboard-for-cardboard parity with the Premium edition packaging.

Standard Edition purchasers will be able to upgrade using Apple's "Nirvana" program. ®

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