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Build It, Steve, and We Will Come

Via Mac Rumors, Smarthouse claims that Apple will launch a phone in the next few months:

Insiders at Taiwanese phone maker BenQ say that Apple procurement executives have been talking to various Taiwanese phone makers during the past few months in an effort to cut a manufacturing deal on an iPod Phone.

They say that Apple will launch an iPod with phone functions within the next few months. "An iPod phone is definitely coming. BenQ will not be making it as we are in competition with Apple however several of our suppliers have been approached to manufacture parts. Among manufacturers in Taiwan it is common knowledge. The issue for many is the availabilty of parts if the phone takes off" said the BenQ executive.

I pass this along because I heard the same rumor from a reliable source while I was in the Bay Area -- that Apple is working on a phone, that it will launch fairly soon, and most interestingly, that Apple will become its own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator), using Cingular's network.

This rumor makes sense to me. Apple wants -- no, needs, to stay competitive -- an iTunes-on-a-phone solution, and a real one, not the ROKR, crippled by an intersection of corporate concerns. (Cingular didn't want to undermine its $3-per-ringtone business; Apple didn't want to let users store unlimited songs on a device for which it received just a few dollars.) By becoming a manufacturer, Apple can build a phone with a hip design, just like an iPod, and sell it directly, keeping hundreds of dollars for itself, just like an iPod. By becoming an MVNO, Apple can allow users to download songs wirelessly -- unlike an iPod, which requires a Mac or PC to buy songs. As for using Cingular's network for its MVNO operations, this makes sense, too. Apple would want a global device, which would imply GSM. This rules out Verizon or Sprint.

The person from whom I heard this rumor and I talked about it, thought through the implications, and then both decided that yes, we could easily imagine ourselves switching to Apple for our cell phone service. I wouldn't care about the songs-on-the-phone bit; I already have multiple iPods. I'm assuming that Apple would create the hippest phone on the plane, the iPod nano of phones. Build it, Steve, and we will come.


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