Images of the Microsoft’s upcoming phones has leaked. I guess Microsoft feels “old school” about this; that people really want “real” keyboards, but that tide is rapidly turning.
RIM knows it, hence the Storm and now Storm 2. Google knows it, which is why Android has a software keyboard. I believe even Palm knows it, but they couldn’t get a software keyboard ready in time for the Pre/Pixie. (They also couldn’t get desktop software or a decent API developed, but I digress.)
I’ve outlined the differences and advantages between hardware/software keyboards before, and since that time have become even more convinced they’re the only way to go. They simply make too much sense for the user and the manufacturer.
For example, with the 3.0 OS upgrade Apple was able to add a landscape keyboard option to every iPhone owner. Just like that. They’ve also added new keys and shortcuts. Even the Japanese Emoji symbols are available via the App Store. All because of the tremendous flexibility of a software keyboard.
Meanwhile, not having a physical keyboard means the device can be thinner and lighter. It also means it doesn’t change shape when using the keyboard (like the Pre), or sacrifice screen size (like Blackberrys).
The only advantages to physical keyboards are:
- Getting a “touch” phone to market sooner because you don’t write one,
- Satisfying the people used to them who think they can’t switch.
The former is a matter of being late to the party, and in Palm’s case hurt them because the keyboard they’re using is cheap. The latter is a perception that will change as people find a software keyboard is even more usable.
Here’s my prediction: In about three years time the physical keyboard holdouts will be complaining about their lack of choice in the marketplace. All the “cool” phones will be using software keyboards.