Apple fans snack on iPod rumors

As often happens when an Apple Computer announcement is imminent, the rumor mills have cranked into overdrive. Much of the attention ahead of Wednesday's "special event" focuses on Motorola's iTunes capable phone.

Motorola has already received FCC approval for one such device. The Wall Street Journal and an Ovum analyst are both reporting that Cingular will be offering the phone out of the gate. Meanwhile, a posting at Engadget says that the phone will have a 100-song capacity, to avoid being a threat to existing iPod models.

A key unanswered question is whether there will be any capability for the phone to download songs on its own, or whether the software will just be able to play songs transferred from a computer.

One thing is certain. The long-awaited Motorola phone is clearly imminent. The company has promised such a device will be on the market by the end of the current quarter, which spans through the end of September. Also, the latest version of iTunes contains hidden references to cell phone support.

In addition to a possible phone announcement, several signs point to some type of new flash memory-based players -- either beefier iPod Shuffles or a flash-based iPod Mini (or both). Research firm iSuppli noted that Samsung Electronics was dedicating a large amount--perhaps as much as 40 percent--of its flash memory production to Apple.

Meanwhile, PortalPlayer, the company whose processor powers the hard drive-based iPod has said to expect this quarter that a "significant" portion of this quarter's business will come from flash memory based devices.

In the past, all of the company's chips have gone to hard drive-based players. On its conference call with analysts, PortalPlayer executives defined significant as more than 10 percent of sales. In theory, the company could get 10 percent of sales by selling chips for a flash player made by someone other than Apple. However, it seems unlikely that a company would predict such market share for a player from anyone other than Apple, the clear market leader.

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