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12/18/2006
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Cisco's Linksys, Not Apple, Releases iPhone

Cisco has owned the iPhone name since 2000, when it purchased InfoGear Technology for $301 million.

The much-awaited iPhone arrives today, just not from Apple. Despite intense speculation that included notes from financial analysts' opinions on when such a device might be announced, Cisco Systems' Linksys arm stole Apple's thunder by unveiling a line of VoIP phones and accessories for consumers using the iPhone registered trademark. Consider it another sign that the company known for routers and switches for big business has its sights set on your living room.

Linksys has been selling VoIP phones and kits since 2004, and many of the products it's announcing today aren't much more than rebrandings of pre-exisiting phones. However, Linksys is adding two new products aimed directly at Skype users. Skype is the largest Internet telephony company on the Web, claiming 100 million registered users. One of the new phones is a $199.99 Skype Wi-Fi phone that will be available early next year. The other is a $179.99 phone kit that lets users choose to make calls over the standard phone line or through an instance of Skype running on their computer.

Cisco has owned the iPhone name since 2000, when it purchased InfoGear Technology for $301 million. InfoGear even sold a phone called iPhone that let users surf the Web, and once sued an entity called iPhones for copyright infringement.

Though the iPhone appears to be just another in the line of Cisco VoIP phones, today's release is a sly play on the part of Linksys. There's been rampant speculation for months that Apple will soon announce a phone with similar design aesthetics as the phenomenon that is the iPod, and iPhone has been a name that's been bantered around. IPhone.org even points to Apple's Web site. Now, consumers and industry-watchers alike will have to wait even longer for an Apple phone -- and a new name.

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