The ongoing saga of Apple's mystery mobile

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The ongoing saga of Apple's mystery mobile

2006 saw many rumours, but no official news on the 'iPhone'.

Rumours flourished throughout 2006 about the release of a mobile phone from Apple. The existence of the device, which came to be known as the 'iPhone', has yet to be confirmed by Apple.

Still, the Apple mobile phone was one of the most anticipated new devices in 2006. Fuelled by a reports of Apple patent applications, bloggers, analysts and reporters speculated that the device will have everything from a touch-screen to a full keyboard to a case made out of zirconium.  

Rumours of the impending release first began to surface in April, when an analyst said that the odds were "extremely good" that Apple would release the device some time during the Spring of 2006 to coincide with the launch of Helio, a combination 3G/VoIP service. The product was, of course, not released with Helio.

Predictions began afresh in July, when an Apple executive was quoted as saying: "We do not think that the phones that are available today make the best music players. We think the iPod is. But over time, that is likely to change, and we are not sitting around doing nothing."

The comment, made by chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer, led many to anticipate the iPhone's arrival at the WWDC summit in August and later at September's Apple Showtime event.  

Again, Apple made no mention of a mobile phone project. In November, however, rumours again surfaced that seemed to indicate the imminent release of a mobile phone.

Factories in Taiwan and Japan had reportedly received an order to produce two million phones for Apple. 

According to the report, two models were to be made, one containing a full keyboard and video capabilities, and another more suited to playing music.

The reports have led to the latest speculation that the phone may be introduced by Steve Jobs at January's Macworld expo. 

Apple has kept its traditional tight lid on any news surrounding the product, making it difficult to do anything but speculate on the device, according to Jupiter Research vice president Michael Gartenberg.

"We don't even know what it's called," Gartenberg told vnunet.com. "At this point, it's simply fun speculation for a dreary day in December."

The presumed name for the device had been the 'iPhone' until 18 December, when Linksys announced a line of VoIP handsets bearing the name.

Linksys claimed that its parent company, Cisco Systems, has owned the trademark to the 'iPhone' name since 2000.

The fact that so much buzz was generated over the course of the year while Apple has yet to officially say anything about the product is a testament to the company and the impact that Apple's products have on consumers, according to Gartenberg.

"You just don't get this type of excitement from other companies," said the analyst. "I think that says an awful lot about Apple's position in the marketplace."

Previous attempts to integrate Apple's products with mobile phones from Motorola have fizzled out. 

However, Gartenberg expects that if Apple does in fact release a mobile phone, it will be built on a much stronger business model than the Motorola Rokr phones.

"I think Apple is only interested in products that would have wide consumer appeal," said Gartenberg. "Over time they would not introduce this product unless they felt it would have very long mass appeal."

Even if the devices are not immediately successful, Gartenberg said that Apple could continue to back the products until they caught on with consumers, similar to the iPod.

"But again, we don't know what the business model is," he said. "There are so many different business models that Apple could take here."
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