Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Nintendo DS thoughts

When the Nintendo DS was first announced, some speculated that it would cost close to £150 and predicted their doom. But today Nintendo announced the US pricing of the DS to be US$149.99 which translates to £84 or £76 if bought in Japan. This in my opinion is a great price for such an advance hardware that potentially have PDA functions.

The cheapest colour PDA on the market is
palmOne's Zire 31 which costs £99. It has no form of wireless (except IrDA) and has a low resolution screen. The only saving grace was it is running on the popular and mainstream PalmOS. At £99 it might sound cheap (and it is a good value for money PalmOS device) but when you start to compare the specifications with the cheaper DS then you can't help but think that the DS is much more attractive.

The DS has two screens both of which are higher resolution than the Zire 31. One of the screen would be touch sensitive. It even comes with a stylus! The DS would also have WiFi 802.11 built-in allowing true wireless and internet gaming something that not many sub £200 PDAs has. It also has the necessary hardware to perform audio and video playback. It has two proprietary slots one of which is already in use by the GameBoy Advance. There are already adaptors on sale that would allow normal flash memory such as SD format to be used. Oh... and it has two processors and built-in voice recognition.

PDA manufacturers are being attacked from two sides now. First by mobile phone companies running SymbianOS and now Nintendo. Sure the DS might not have a PDA operating system but do consumers care? PalmOS or Pocket PC might be popular but it is still not big enough. And because the pricing is excellent (no doubt helped by subsidising) who would want to pay for a high end PDA when gaming/audio/video/PIM/TV can be done on a cheap DS.

PalmOS has a great gaming device also known as the Zodiac. However the Zodiac costs much more, does not have retail presence around the World, has a pitiful collection of optimized games (despite being on the market for over a year), does not have WiFi 802.11 - something that is essential for multiplayer online gaming and more importantly do not own a brand name recognised by billions.

This device would also appeal to geeks. I can already see Linux nerds attempting to flash the ROM and putting the open source OS into it. Imagine running Qtopia on the DS. It would be a true multi-task device. Internet browsing on the bottom screen while watching the TV on the top. A better yet prospect would be Nintendo themselve release PDA software on add-on cards that would enable PIM functions with data saved straight to the cards. Here's hoping that a software similar to PalmOS would be released!

I am not suggesting that the DS would replace PDAs soon, but just like consoles are replacing computers as gaming devices and eventually in the future - as a whole computing device, this can also happen to pocket computers. palmOne and the likes need to keep innovating. I would also suggest PalmSource to get on their arse and start producing and licensing a proper gaming API for PalmOS.

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