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Former Apple sales boss: Mac Phone yes, Mac Tablet no

Have you heard? Next week, Apple definitely maybe could announce or ship or talk about a phone!

The is reaching a fever pitch, five days before Macworld. In today's episode, David Sobotta, the former head of federal sales for Apple, explains that Steve Jobs never really liked the idea of a Mac Tablet but has expressed several ideas about what it would take to build a Mac Phone.

In a piece for the Guardian, Sobotta describes a 2002 meeting he attended between Jobs and representatives from the medical research organization National Institutes of Health in which the NIH reps hoped to convince Jobs to build a Mac tablet for the medical industry. Jobs demurred, citing problems with screen resolution, wireless bandwidth and the potential liability problems that are part and parcel of working with the health care industry.

Undeterred, the NIH reps then inquired about the possibility of Apple making its products more compatible with Research in Motion's BlackBerry device, according to Sobotta. Again, Jobs dismissed the BlackBerry as a niche product, but this time went on to explain his vision of a converged device.

It would need to fit in a shirt pocket, he said, according to Sobotta's account. It would need to be more compelling as a converged device than a phone or a computer is on their own.

With that background, Sobotta goes on to describe why he thinks Apple is all set to unveil a phone. For starters, the company is well positioned with Samsung to secure enough flash memory for a mass-market phone. It has its own network of retail stores that would provide a high-profile showcase for the new phone. And it has learned much about cell phones through partnerships with cell phone makers; Apple did some Bluetooth development with Sony Ericsson and worked on the ill-fated Rokr iTunes phone with Motorola.

Sobotta appears to be legit, but an Apple representative did not return a call seeking confirmation of his former employment status with the company.