Techcrunch is reporting, via "sources in Asia," that Apple is gobbling up huge numbers of camera sensors—the same ones used in the iPhone 3GS—for use in iPods. If Apple isn't really doing this, they should be.
First, the Techcrunch take:
Apple has placed an order for a massive number of camera modules of the type that they include in the iPhone. These are inexpensive cameras, in the $US10 range. And the size of the order, our source says, means they can only be used for one thing - the iPods.
That's not a terribly huge amount of information, but even so, such a move's objectives are immediately obvious: to enter, eat away at, and eventually obliterate the cheap camcorder space. Here's how it goes: Apple puts a camera in their iPod Touch; customers already eager buy an iPod are suddenly more eager; customers looking for a cheap pocket camcorder suddenly have a new, price-competitive option with a ton more features than the typical video-recording bricks of the genre.
The iPod Touch has always had near-parity with the iPhone in terms of features, barring the obvious phone features. The other, non-cellular differences—lack of camera, microphone, and for a while, GPS—disturbed this parity, though one assumes they were necessary for reasons of price. Adding a camera would close the gap, mostly eliminating the annoying penalty of buying a Touch over an iPhone.
Techcrunch goes so far as to say the order is big enough to expect cameras in all iPods except the shuffle—a rumour we've heard bits and pieces of before. That'd be fine, I guess, but the Touch seems like a much more obvious (and practical and functional) choice: it's already got the screen, the software and connectivity it needs to be a competitive camera product; Apple just needs to give it eyes. [Techcrunch—Thanks, Matt!]