It appears quite likely that Apple is getting ready to release a cellular-enabled iPod.
Either that, or an iPod-enabled cell phone.
If not, then why did Apple, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Ryan Kim, file four trademark applications earlier this month, covering such terms as "digital music," "cellular" and "communications?"
The four trademark applications in question are Word Marks Apple has filed for the term "Mobile Me." At the top of this post, I've included a U.S.Patent & Trademark Office graphic with the USPTO-supplied, descriptive but generic text for these.
Let me help you avoid eyestrain by noting what "Goods and Services" are encompassed by this application. I've boldfaced the relevant areas.
Computer services; computer data recovery; data analysis being computer services; computer programming; updating of computer software; maintenance of computer software, computer and communications networks, and computer systems; research and development of computer hardware and software; website design, creation, hosting services; customized imprinting and design of messages, correspondence and other written communication which are delivered by electronic transmission; computer on-line services for the search, retrieval, indexing and organization of data on computer and communication networks; providing use of on-line, non-downloadable software; providing use of on-line, non-downloadable software for communications via local or global communications networks, including the Internet, Intranets, Extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular, and satellite networks; analyzing data to detect, eradicate and prevent the occurrence of computer viruses; computer services relating to the protection of computer hardware, computer software, computer networks and computer systems against computer viruses, attacks, or failures; computer services for enhancing the performance, security and functionality of computer and communications networks; computer help-line services; technical support services relating to computers, computer software, telecommunications, and the Internet; consultancy and provision of information and advice relating to the aforesaid; all provided on-line from a computer database or provided from facilities on local or global communications networks, including the Internet, Intranets, Extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular, and satellite networks.
Lots of people are speculating. Albert Lin and Shaw Wu of American Technology Research think an iTunes phone in the mold of the Motorola Rokr could be in the offing. So could a cellular-enabled iPod where Apple would act as a cellular reseller, buying bulk minutes from an established carrier and then reselling them to users.
With such technology, iPod users could download tunes over the air, from the iTunes store. That would mean an iPod phone would need to have enough browsing functionality to process secure micropayments.
Not everyone agrees that Apple is necessarily headed toward making itself a cell phone reseller, though. Just "ask" Julie Ask (sorry, couldn't resist the pun), senior analyst for Jupiter Research.
"Apple sells hardware and software," she tells the Chron's Kim. "They don't have an existing subscriber base like cable companies, and they don't have content like ESPN that people have an affinity to."
But what if Apple were to launch streaming music channels that an iPod cell phone could offer access to?