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Apple considered iPhone with physical keyboard? Wait, what?

According to former Apple engineer Tony Fadell, one of the proposals for the first iPhone was a hardware keyboard.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

One little decision can provoke so much.

It seems that, in those days when everyone believed that BlackBerrys were the most extraordinary machines on the planet, Apple was still cogitating over its little iPod-phone thingy.

And apparently one of the options the company considered was to have a physical keyboard. Yes, like the BlackBerry. With real physical buttons.

This revelation came via Tony Fadell, an engineer who was working at Apple at the time.

In an interview with the Verge, Fadell -- who left Apple to create learning thermostat company Nest -- offered that there were three designs being considered -- one involving a hardware keyboard.

One imagines this might have involved the keyboard sliding out of the phone. You know, like, well, all those wonderful phones that still have that design.

Some might muse that it's something of a relief that Apple committed itself to touch-screen technology, something that makes using a smartphone peculiarly pleasant. However, what would have happened if Apple had gone with a physical keyboard?

Would everyone else have decided that because Apple is doing it, that must mean it's cool? Or would some other enterprising company have been the first to go with its instincts and created the first touch-screen smartphone?

Which company might that have been? Microsoft, surely.