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Will Apple ever make another camera?

The iPhone might be enough camera for many people, but a standalone iOS camera could be so much more.

Apple's first digital camera, the QuickTake 100. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Back before Steve Jobs returned to Apple, the company had strayed a bit from its core products. One of those misfit toys was the QuickTake digital camera.

Released in May 1994 for $749, the first model, the QuickTake 100, was made jointly with Kodak and worked only with Apple computers. The fully automatic digital camera was one of the first available for consumers. It was followed by the QuickTake 150 that added Windows support, and the 200 (made by Fujifilm), which added focus and aperture control as well as removable storage.

The QuickTake was killed in 1997, and while the iPhone has pretty much taken the place of a dedicated camera for many casual photographers, there are plenty of people out there who want better pictures and performance in addition to the whole connected world of the iPhone. So, with Tim Cook now at the helm, will Apple stray again into cameras?

The way I see it, there are two ways this can go, one unlikely and one likely. The unlikely option would be for Apple to develop a new camera on its own or through a partnership with a camera maker. If any company would be able to pull off an elegant, easy-to-use camera with solid wireless implementation for backup, sharing, and syncing across devices, it would be Apple.

However, no matter how much I'd like to see iOS in a camera with a larger sensor, a better lens, faster processing, and expandable storage, it just doesn't make sense for Apple to devote time and money to a discrete, single-function device. Plus, Apple would probably need to make more than one camera type, and giving consumers that kind of choice isn't a very Apple thing to do. This seems more like Android territory for a company like Samsung to get involved with, since it already has a digital imaging division and plenty of Android experience with its mobile devices.

But, what I can see happening, with or without Apple's input, is a third-party manufacturer creating a whole line of cameras with an iPhone dock at the back instead of an LCD. That way, you could have your pick of lenses, processors, and sensors, while still having all the app access, iCloud and AirPlay support, and mobile broadband and Wi-Fi. Paired with an app to act as an interface for camera control, you could have the ultimate connected camera.

Since it would just be an accessory to the iPhone, Apple doesn't end up moving into another category, and it gives potential iPhone buyers one more reason to switch to an Apple product. Add in the iCloud and AirPlay support and you just end up buying more core Apple products, keeping you trapped in its ecosystem.