But would setting itself up against Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Samsung, LG and co make sense? CEO Steve Jobs once said, when asked if Apple was preparing a PDA, that there was no point in doing so unless it could come up with something the established players weren't doing, either from a technological standpoint or from an ease-of-use perspective.
Motorola's Rokr notwithstanding, it's questionable if Apple can really bring anything to the cellphone market beyond the iPod name - even the shiny white and black colour scheme has already been adopted, by Sony Ericsson, to name but one.
Hard to beat?
Quite apart from the hardware, Apple has the software to think about, and even if it's planning to buy in an OS and UI - there are plenty available - it would have a lot to do to work on the look and feel and on the apps it intends to include. Fortunately, its work for Motorola on the Rokr's incarnation of iTunes will have given it some pointers.
Much depends on whether the Apple spreadsheet cell comes up black or red. Apple doesn't need to become a player on the scale of Nokia to make money out of the scheme, though the more it invests in phone R&D, the more money it will need to make. As it's shown with the Mac, there's good money to be made offering a certain class of customer a certain class of product; you don't need to be Dell, or to have Dell's market share, to bring value to your shareholders.
The iPod experience has shown Apple it can successfully diversify beyond computers. Indeed, its brand equity has never been higher, not even in the early days. It has a name - two names if you count iPod - it can sell products on, particularly well-designed AV kit. If it has picked telephony, it has chosen a tough market to enter, and one in which failure is less likely to be tolerated than its other chosen arenas. Wall Street will not be as forgiving as it has been if the iPhone - whenever it's launched - is not an iPod but a Cube. ®