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iPod Rumors Swirl

5:00 PM -- Ranking up there with "Tom Cruise is gay" and "Lance Armstrong was juiced" on the list of unsubstantiated-yet-persistent rumors, the "Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is releasing an iPod/smartphone" claim has surfaced again, this time following a comment from Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer last week. In a conference call, Oppenheimer responded to a question about the long-anticipated Mac/smartphone/iPod/whatever mash-up:

"As regards cell phones, we don't think that the phones that are available today make the best music players," Oppenheimer opined. "We think the iPod is. But over time, that is likely to change. And we're not sitting around doing nothing."

Reminiscent as it was of Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice's Middle East press conference, the "not sitting around doing nothing" comment nevertheless fueled the flames once again in geekland. So far we've had the "at least considering it" rumor, the "only a matter of time" rumor, and the "AppleBerry" rumor. And so far, none of these has actually been proven.

The fact that the smartphone market is extremely competitive, with well established players and low margins, and Apple had its hat handed to it with the Newton, back in the 1990s, doesn't seem to dissuade these rumor-spreaders.

Come to think of it, they probably won't dissuade Steve Jobs either. He probably sees a segment where the cool factor is (almost) everything, and where faddishness rules -- the definition of a market where Apple can come in and sweep the competition away.

I wonder, though -- does he really want to market his wares through the likes of Cingular Wireless and Verizon Wireless -- carriers that are about as uncool as it's possible to be?

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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