In response to my blog post asking whether handhelds with hard drives might start to give iPod (and other dedicated music players) a run for its money, one Talkbacker pointed out that iPod now includes a Calendar feature, showing that iPod can give as good as it gets and push back against incursion from handheld vendors.
Another Talkbacker thought that it wouldn't be handhelds that would kill dedicated music players, but advanced cell phones that combine features of handhelds and music players into one phone package. That makes a lot of sense to Bill Gates, who believes mobile phones will be the stumbling block which trips the iPod giant. That makes a lot of sense to me, too, as gadget creep is already an issue I have to contend with. I might be willing to sacrifice a few features on my music player, handheld, and even my digital camera in order to carry just one device around with me in my pocket.
On that note, leading players in a particular market segment are the teams to beat in any new convergence. Nokia, as leading handset vendor, is a strong player in a smartphone future. Similarly, Microsoft and Palm could also be players, provided features of handhelds are what matter to the smartphone buyers of the future.
Apple, however, could also be a contender as maker of the most popular music player in existence - the iPod. Why wouldn't they have a strong shot at making the converged smartphone device of the future, assuming that music playing is a strong reason to buy a smartphone?
It doesn't seem like such a crazy idea. Nokia already outsources most of its manufacturing work to shops in China and Taiwan. Microsoft's first Windows-powered mobile phone, Orange Communications SPV, was made by Taiwan-based HTC. Why couldn't Apple do the same thing?
They'd need an operating system, but there's no shortage of them for mobile devices, Symbian, Palm, Linux, even Windows, assuming Apple could consider an OS from its arch-rival. Furthermore, the iPod has given them considerable experience with consumer electronics, and nobody doubts the skills of Apple hardware designers.
So, what do you think? Is an iPod phone in the cards?