Apple patent could point to iPhone

A patent application filed by Apple has fueled speculation that the company is readying an iPhone device that would extend the life of the iPod and allow the company to branch off in a new direction.

“Everyone had already triangulated that this was likely — it makes a lot of sense,” Roger Kay, president of the market-research firm Endpoint Technologies, told Macworld.

If Apple does decide to step into the phone market, they will face much stiffer competition than they are used to with MP3 players. However, Kay feels that it’s a market that Apple has to get into as a preemptive play, if nothing else.

“I actually think it’s a good defensive play for them,” said Kay. “The only market larger than computers is the phone market. Phone companies have the potential to eat the media player market, so Apple can’t leave that base uncovered.”

Entering the market gives Apple a new direction to take its device strategy, but will adding another iPod sacrifice its already lucrative business? Kay believes that Apple’s pricing plan will make sure that won’t happen.

“My sense is that they are going to price it so they capture more of the market,” said Kay. “If you just want an MP3 player, buy an iPod; but if you want more you can get the new device.”

According to a report on Bloomberg , Apple’s application describes a “tube-like” device made using zirconia and alumina and that would be “cost effective, smaller, lighter, stronger and aesthetically more pleasing than current” designs.

With Macworld Expo just around the corner, Kay characterized the chances of getting an iPhone-like device as being “a pretty good bet.”

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