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What the 'iPhone' should do

perspective News.com's Scott Ard says if Apple makes a smart phone, there's a way to make it stand out from the pack.

Culture

perspective Every blog and major media outlet has reported in recent days about the imminent arrival of a cell phone made by Apple Computer.

Most of the reports have scant evidence and are being written by outlets with dubious track records when it comes to predicting what Steve Jobs & Co. are up to. (For the record, CNET News.com quoted a source in September of '05 as saying "we know that they are going to build a smart phone--it's only a matter of time." And who was the source? Ed Zander, CEO of cell phone kingpin Motorola.)

, however, is not the point to this post. Rather, I'd like to speculate on what I think an Apple iPhone should do.

Namely, I would like to see an that connects to the owner's computer, allowing full streaming access to movies and music stored on the Mac (or PC). Call it "iTunes to Go."

I would like to see an iPhone that connects to the owner's computer, allowing full streaming access to movies and music stored on the Mac.

Why would Apple consider such a thing? Because it would separate iPhones from the billions of cell phones already on the market, and it fits with the concept of keeping the computer as the hub of your digital lifestyle. The upcoming iTV (or whatever the final name is), for example, will stream from the Mac.

It also fits with Jobs' contention that people want to own, not rent, music. What could be a better fit than allowing you to buy a song or movie from Apple's online store and keep it on your computer, and then allowing you to stream it to your TV or your cell phone?

A bigger question is whether it is doable. The answer is not only yes, but in a way, it's already possible.

I've been streaming music to my new BlackJack cell phone for several days and with a few tweaks it's easy to see how Apple could build similar functionality.

Here's how it works: I hooked up a Slingbox A/V to my Dish Network VIP 622 HD DVR. Installing SlingPlayer Mobile on the BlackJack was very simple, as was accessing the Dish box.

If you're not familiar with the SlingBox, it essentially connects your home TV to the Internet, making your favorite programs available anywhere in the world you can access the Net, including via a mobile phone. If you have TiVo service, for example, a virtual remote control gives you complete access to recorded shows, scheduling, live playback, and so on. Remember how blown away you were when you first hooked up your TiVo? The Slingbox delivers the same feeling.

But back to the iPhone. With the BlackJack connected to SlingBox, connected to the Dish box, you get an added benefit: satellite radio for free. The Dish Network includes 60 channels of Sirius satellite radio with most programming packages. That means you can tap into Sirius radio via your cell phone and listen to live streams of "Mirror in the Bathroom" by the English Beat via Sirius' First Wave channel 6022, if that's what you're into. Plug some headphones into your cell phone and you are, as Taco Bell says, good to go.

It works flawlessly and shows the opportunity that Apple could seize by making the process even easier. As a matter of fact, I'd propose that Apple go the extra step and acquire SlingBox, so it could easily add the TV element (which it is seriously late on delivering) and capture some of the obviously sharp minds at Sling Media.

From the design of the hardware to the packaging to the ease of use, it's clear there is some mindshare already going on between the two companies. (For example, hooking up the Slingbox box the Net does not typically require a person to deal with an IP address. How's that for simple?)

You might ask why any carriers would want to support an iPhone that is capable of streaming music and video from a PC. After all, many are starting to sell music and video content. But the iPhone would practically require owners to sign up for an all-you-can-eat data plan at, what, $30 to $50 a month, on top of the regular cell bill? Someone's gotta see the appeal in that.

I do.

This article originally appeared on Crave.

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