A new release of Apple patent filings dealing with Wi-Fi, wide-screen displays and touchscreen controls indicates new features in the next generation iPod could look similar to the iPhone.
This week, several new patents filed by Apple were released on the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Web site. First submitted late last year, the most interesting example details methods for allowing a neighbouring device to talk to an iPod or iPhone via a wireless connection.
The application assumes that the mobile devices are already capable of downloading data from the Internet over cellular or Wi-Fi networks: "as portable electronic devices become more versatile and more interactive, it is advantageous to exchange (send and/or receive) media or other types of data with other electronic devices in a wireless manner".
Analysts Piper Jaffray published a report last week predicting that Apple would release a sixth generation of iPod by January 2008. Possibly to avoid denting sales of the new iPhone, they don't see Wi-Fi or other Internet access as being any sort of priority, instead seeing a new touchscreen interface and overall screen size as the big change.
They also predicted that the next iPod will run on the same version of Mac OS X used by the iPhone.
However, recent speculation has not always been accurate. Analysts JPMorgan predicted at the beginning of this week that a new version of the iPhone was already on the way, this time sporting a smaller, iPod nano-style design and slightly different interface that used both sides of the device to double the screen space.
The next day, a different JPMorgan analyst retracted the statement, but not before it had been reported worldwide and caused an increase in Apple's stock price.
The new analysis found it unlikely that Apple would undercut their brand-new iPhone with a cheaper model in such a short time.
Other reports this week suggested that Apple had already lined up a supplier for the touchscreen panel that would be required for a new video iPod.
Other recent patent filings by Apple include input technology that would allow designers to manipulate three-dimensional images with a two-dimensional input device, like a mouse.
Apple also filed for a patent on ways for inexperienced Web designers to create fancy Web pages using tools generally confined to the pros.
At the company's shareholder meeting earlier this year, CEO Steve Jobs promised improvements to the company's .Mac service, which has languished behind other projects like the iPhone and Leopard -- easier Web page creation could be part of that.
Tom Krazit of CNET News.com contributed to this story.