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Motorola: iTunes phone no-show due to Apple

So why demo the Music Store then?

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Apple never fell shy of laying the blame for late Mac product introductions on its erstwhile processor partner, Motorola, but now the boot is apparently on the other foot.

Motorola's iTunes phone - or last-minute substitution?In a rather pleasing balancing of the books, Motorola has blamed its failure to show off its highly anticipated iTunes mobile phone on Apple.

To be fair, it's more a matter of conflicting approaches to marketing than the Mac maker's inability to deliver product as promised. But having seen Apple complain in the past about Motorola being unable to provide it with the higher-clocked PowerPC processors it wants, we're nonetheless tickled by the irony. Motorola has, of course, since spun off its semiconductor business, as Freescale, which is still an Apple supplier.

At a CTIA press conference today, Motorola's mobile phone chief, Ron Garriques, told reporters that the iTunes handset's absence from the CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany last week was due to differences in the two companies' approach to launching product, according to Reuters.

Referring to Apple's CEO, Garriques quipped: "Steve's perspective is that you launch a product on Sunday and sell it on Monday." Motorola, by contrast, launches product only when it's ready to go on the market, he said.

So we can ignore all the press releases Motorola puts out announcing new handsets that are due to ship two or three quarters down the line, can we, Ron?

Garriques did say that the iTunes handset will ship by the end of H1, which is what Jobs and Motorola CEO Ed Zander said at the project's public announcement last summer. Suggestions made since then that it might appear sooner have largely come from Apple's direction.

Motorola did demo Apple's iTunes Music Store on its CeBIT stand, even though there was apparently no handset to show. An adjacent plastic case positioned directly beneath a 'Here! Music Downloads!' sign held two non-operational E780 handsets (right) and a pair of Bluetooth headsets - hastily added, we wonder, because of a last-minute decision not to show the iTunes phone?

Garriques also said a second iTunes handset would be released in the second half of the year.

Motorola sources told us that the phone's no-show at CeBIT was down to the company's carrier partners, who clearly want a say as to when the handset will be launched. The implication is that the phone is ready to go, but Motorola wants one or two carriers on its customer list before making a formal launch. Apple, equally understandably, wants to whet potential punters' appetites with a paper launch.

Who's right depends on whether the carriers bite. With no over-the-air music downloads planned, at least not initially, the iTunes phone offers little direct revenue opportunity for the networks. However, the iPod halo effect may be enough persuade them that the handset offers them a way of attracting new customers and upgrade business. ®

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