Linksys Launches iPhone?

On Friday afternoon I heard a rumor that the “iPhone” was coming out on Monday, December 18th. It was an interesting rumor because most people thought that Apple would announce their mobile phone product at the January 2007 Macworld conference.

Well, a new product called the iPhone did indeed come out today but not from the company that everyone thought. Linksys announced the iPhone in this press release, not Apple. So what the hell happened? For almost a year now people have been speculating about the possibility of Apple releasing a communication product called the iPhone. But apparently Linksys, a unit of networking equipment maker Cisco, already owns the “iPhone” trademark. According to BusinessWeek.com, a company called Infogear registered the “iPhone” name in 1996. Cisco then absorbed the “iPhone” trademark when it acquired Infogear in the year 2000. Oops. Score -1 for the bloggers. We really should have picked up on that little tidbit months ago.

Just like the rumored Apple version of the iPhone, the Linksys iPhone a Web-enabled telephone handset is compatible with all major Internet chat services including Skype, MSN Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, QQ, and ICQ.

So if Apple really has a mobile phone product in the works, they obviously can’t call it the iPhone. What about a variation of a name they already own like iChat Mobile? While the name of this product may still be in question, a trail of clues about an Apple phone product have been popping up all over the Internet for over a year now:

  • In June 2005, the source code of an iTunes update contained multiple references to an Autofill phone playlist function.

  • Apple has owned the domain iphone.org since December 1999. It redirects traffic to apple.com.
  • In March 2006, a source at BenQ, a Taiwanese phone manufacturer confirmed that an Apple phone product was in the works. Why would BenQ leak info about an Apple phone to the media? Sour grapes. Hon Hai Precision, a competitor to BenQ, allegedly won the phone contract with Apple.
  • Apple’s CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, might have let the ‘cat out of the bag‘ on an Apple analyst 2006 Q3 conference call when he said the following: “As regards cell phones, we don’t think that the phones that are available today make the best music players. We think the iPod is. But over time, that is likely to change. And [Apple is] not sitting around doing nothing.”
  • According to analysts, Apple is rumored to be ready to release an Internet phone product at the January 2007 Macworld conference. “From a technical standpoint, the phone is pretty much done,” said American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu. “It’s a big endeavor and we believe it’s beyond speculation.” Apparently the rumored existence of an Apple phone has morphed from a question of “If” to “When.”

Here’s the official Linksys press release on the iPhone.

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