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BenQ exec claims Apple's iPhone 'definitely coming'

Confirmation?

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Analysis Taiwan's BenQ believes Apple will indeed offer a mobile phone product. One company executive this week said the 'iPhone' is "definitely coming", claiming the iPod maker has been talking to Taiwanese component manufacturers, some of whom also supply BenQ's handset operation.

The BenQ staffer's comment comes courtesy of Australian website Smarthouse. He said: "Among manufacturers in Taiwan [Apple's plan] is common knowledge. The issue for many is the availability of parts if the phone takes off."

He said BenQ was not in the running as a potential Apple partner: the two companies would be in competition, as they already are in the digital music player arena.

Telephony is an obvious direction for Apple's iPod enterprise, especially as storage - be it Flash or hard disk - gets cheaper and easier to integrate into a device that almost everyone already carries around.

Apple already has a relationship with Motorola, but it didn't get off to a good start - Motorola's Rokr was criticised for its lacklustre design and the 100-song limit its version of iTunes imposes. Motorola has since said it is planning a line of music phones based on Microsoft's Windows Media Player, which could be seen as a reaction to Apple's plan to enter the market.

Apple has also had, in the past, a good relationship with Sony Ericsson, particularly when it was promoting Mac OS X's data-synchronisation technology. These days, Sony Ericsson is out to win market share from the iPod using its Walkman-branded phones. The strength of the brand and the success Sony Ericsson appears to be gaining through it may also have persuaded Apple it's time to tackle its rival head-on.

Dbtel M50 handset

If Apple is indeed going down the mobile phone route, it must be motivated by a desire to expand the iPod brand and to find a new outlet for its iTunes Music Store. None of Motorola's iTunes phones support over-the-air downloads, much to the annoyance of carriers, who want such a facility not only for their cut of the song sale but because it encourages users to spend money on data transmissions. Apple, of course, undoubtedly thinks it can take advantage of that opportunity, and it's certainly been rumoured to be plotting to become a mobile phone operator in its own right, renting spare capacity off one of the existing networks.

Can Apple offer anything other than a music-friendly phone - hardly a radical step, these days? Its synchronisation technology provides a solid foundation to get personal information, pictures, videos and music on and off the handset, and if it ties this into its .Mac web-based service, it has the basis for a Danger-style access-your-data-anywhere system that could well win an audience beyond iPod fans.

Apple has already registered 'Mobile Me' as a trademark. As it stands, the filing is too broad to zero in on the product or service behind the brand, but given the 'iPhone' rumours, it's an interesting name to seek to acquire. ®

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