iPhone won't beat the Nintendo DS at its own game

Apple. Games. Put them together successfully and you've got power that could put a nuclear fusion reactor to shame. Combine them incorrectly, and you'll likely have to suffer several weeks of mockery for singeing your eyebrows off.

But this time, Forbes writer Brian Caulfield thinks, will be different. Because this time it's about the iPhone. According to him, the imminent launch of downloadable third-party apps for the iPhone could mean a significant challenge to game console maker Nintendo—specifically to their handheld console, the Nintendo DS.

In case you don't know your Prince of Persia from your Princess Peach, let me tell you that the DS was introduced in 2004 and has gone on to become the most popular dedicated portable gaming device around, racking up sales to the tune of 70 million. Featuring technology like Wi-Fi, a touch-sensitive screen, and an integrated microphone, you might be tempted to think that it sounds an awful lot like the iPhone. So of course they'd be in competition, right?

iPhone NES emulator

Well...not necessarily. Yes, there will be games when the App Store launches: even, at some point, serious mainstream titles from the likes of Electronic Arts and Sega. But the iPhone, at its heart, is not a gaming machine. Not in the way that the DS is, where every design consideration is given to one task, and one task only: playing games. The iPhone's touchscreen and motion sensors will be good for some games, and bad for others—just like the iPod's Click Wheel has proved to be.

Suggesting that the iPhone will supplant the DS, however, makes me think of all those predictions that music-playing cell phones would kill the iPod dead. Because after all, the iPod only did one thing, right?

As you can see, that worked out well.

Look, Nintendo's been around the game market a long time, and if the recent success of the Wii shows anything, it's that they know how to compete against bigger, more powerful rivals, as long as the central issue is still playing games. Downloadable applications on the iPhone will certainly help the device succeed and, in my opinion, blow past the expected 10 million mark.

But don't expect that success to come at Nintendo's expense.

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