updated 01:15 pm EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Hardware keyboards could come to Google line
Recently revealed patent applications filed by Google show that the company has at least considered the production of smartphones incorporating a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The design seen by Patent Bolt, should Google produce any phones based on it, would possibly give the company more leverage in trying to grow the presence of Android in the enterprise sphere.
The patent application shows a smartphone similar in design to the G1, the first production Android-based device. A good deal of the patent application deals with the mechanisms responsible for sliding the touch screen up and out to reveal the hardware keyboard. Google presents three designs, each accomplishing the same goal in a different manner. An important design aspect of one arrangement is the degree of overlap in the elements of the sliding mechanism, which Google claims will allow for larger keyboard keys.
While a patent application is no assurance that a product is forthcoming from any manufacturer, some do contend that the fact that Google's Senior Vice President of Mobile, Andy Rubin, is listed as a lead engineer on the application is a sign that this may be a priority project for Google. Additionally, the speed with the application has been published may indicate that Google is interested in moving forward with this design quickly.
A physical keyboard is seen by some in the enterprise world as a nearly indispensable feature for a mobile phone, as physical keyboards tend to allow for faster, more accurate typing. With Android trying to make its own gains in the enterprise sector and head off Apple's own forays into that area, a hardware keyboard could prove to be a difference maker.