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Is Apple Considering An IPod Phone?

Apple Computer's recent trademark applications hint that's where the company may be going, but an analyst gave the speculation "low probability."

Antone Gonsalves

January 17, 2006

2 Min Read

Apple Computer Inc.'s recent trademark applications have fans asking whether the computer maker is building a device that would combine the iPod portable media player with a mobile phone, but at least one expert on Tuesday gave such a device a "low probability."

In early January, the Cupertino, Calif., company filed four trademark applications for the term "Mobile Me." The applications covered areas such as computer services, providing music over a local or global communication network, portable digital electronic devices and software, and telecommunication services.

Apple was not immediately available for comment, but the filings sparked speculation that Apple was working on an iPod phone.

"Let the speculation begin!" said blogger W.Y. in Malaysia.

Apple entered the mobile phone market in September with the unveiling of the Rokr, manufactured by Motorola Inc. that plays music purchased through Apple's popular iTunes music store. Available through Cingular Wireless, experts were less than enthusiastic, given that the device could only hold as many as 100 songs. The iPod, on the other hand, can hold thousands of tunes.

"We haven't seen anything that looks and feel like an Apple product yet," Julie Ask, analyst for JupiterResearch said.

Michael Gartenberg, also an analyst with JupiterResearch, said it was a "low probability" that Apple would build an iPod phone. Apple currently holds about 75 percent of the market for digital media players, and it would make more sense for the company to continue focusing on features and services for the current product line.

"What they need to do is keep the product fresh, so it remains feature and price competitive with competing products," Gartenberg said.

If Apple went with an iPod phone, then Gartenberg would expect it to complement the iPod, but not replace it.

While the trademark filings certainly indicated Apple was developing something, "I don't think they're necessarily ready to go to market with a device," Ask said.

If Apple pursued a mobile phone, then it is more likely the company would work with a partner, such as Motorola or some other handset manufacturer.

"They don't really have the technical expertise on the wireless side of this, meaning the ability to build something from the ground up," Ask said.

A mobile phone manufacturer would handle technology for voice quality, text messaging and other mobile services better than Apple, Ask said.

Some speculators on the Web had Apple becoming a niche carrier, also known as a mobile virtual network operator, which leases cellular spectrum from established carriers.

ESPN in November, for example, launched a cellular service that would provide sports-rich content, including personalized statistics and video highlights. As an MVNO, ESPN would lease cellular spectrum from Sprint.

Experts, however, say Apple would have difficulty going that route, because it doesn't produce content.

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