Rumors are making the rounds, yet again, that Apple is planning to spring an iPod-based mobile phone on the unsuspecting masses.
According to an article on Apple-rumor site AppleInsider, Steve Jobs has been uncharacteristically open in talking with acquaintances about an iPod-derivative, Apple-branded cellphone. Jobs’ garrulousness would be a surprise, since he is notorious for his stringent secrecy in relation to unannounced products.
Although AppleInsider.com claims that one of the sources for its report has been credible in the past, I am deeply skeptical as to the veracity of the rumor.
Too many things don’t make sense: Jobs’ excited blabbing, even among friends; Apple wanting to get into the cell-phone handset market with its own brand, which would put it into competition with companies (Nokia, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, Samsung) who understand the nuances of cellular-networking technologies and the telco-world idiosyncrasies of the wireless operators far more than Apple ever could (or would want to); and the degree of control Apple would have to sacrifice to wireless operators (even under an MVNO arrangement) to get a foothold in the market.
There’s a possibility Apple might eventually consider the development and commercial launch of a mobile phone that could work across WiFi and WiMax networks, perhaps in conjunction with its microprocessor partner Intel, but that’s probably not a product that would be released imminently, for a variety of reasons.
Count me among those who doubt Apple’s interest in wading into the cellphone market. I just don’t think that’s a fight Apple wants or needs.
For now, Apple is right in its assertion that cellphones that play media content are no match for the features, benefits, and functionality of specialized media-player devices such as the IPod. That situation might change, of course, but I think the entire business model of the cellular-phone industry would have to change first.