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A View from Brad King

Apple Moves toward Mobile Phones

A new patent filing pushes Apple closer to the mobile-phone market; however, new features found on PC phones make the going tough.

  • December 1, 2006

Apple’s long-awaited move into the mobile-cell-phone market may happen in January. The company filed a patent that would enable it to develop an iPod smart phone.

From the Bloomberg report:

In a patent application, made public today, Apple claims it developed a new casing for a wireless device that can operate as an iPod and a mobile phone …

Analysts have anticipated Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs will parlay the success of iPod into another line of products. Piper Jaffray Co.’s Gene Munster and Benjamin Reitzes of UBS AG said this week that Jobs may introduce an iPod merged with a phone at the company’s MacWorld conference in January.

Not only that, but the hybrid device would potentially insulate Apple as it enters the well-defended smart-phone arena by using its leverage in the mobile-music market. Even with that protection, though, the road won’t be easy. Big players such as Nokia and Palm have well-established user bases that are unlikely to switch to a new iPod smart phone.

Plus, many new developments occurring with mobile architecture are aimed at PC devices, putting Apple in a position of offering a new product without wide developer support. For instance, industry heavyweights Ericsson and Intel announced a joint project that would meld Ericsson’s mobile platform and Intel’s mobile technology, with the express goal of creating a seamless architecture for broadband, PC-mobile computing.

From the Forbes story:

“This includes a convenient, fast and seamless broadband experience, a secure and fully managed PC environment, next generation high-definition multimedia communication, entertainment and web services on the move,” they said.

However, Apple’s recent processor switch for its computers may help mitigate the potential scarcity of iPod smart-phone application development, since its chip architecture is now in line with the PC.

And Apple’s willingness to work with partners–as it has with the entertainment industry–may help it make up ground quickly. Ericsson’s move is particularly important for the company, which hopes its High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) platform will become a revenue-generating initiative.

In other words, Ericsson needs rich content to make its platform fly; meanwhile, Apple has solid relationships with the content industry and needs a platform to deliver content. The two could easily strike a deal that would create an entertainment iPod smart phone.

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