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Apple, Motorola to unveil music device next week

CELLPHONE PLAYER The two firms will launch a mobile phone that lets users download music from using iTunes software, an analyst said

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , SAN FRANCISCO

Apple Computer and Motorola plan next week to unveil a long-awaited mobile phone and music player that will incorporate Apple's iTunes software, a telecommunications industry analyst who has been briefed on the announcement said on Monday.

The development marks a melding of two of the digital era's most popular devices, the cellphone and the iPod, which has become largely synonymous with the concept of downloading songs from the Internet or transferring them from compact discs.

Roger Entner, a telecommunications analyst with Ovum, a market research firm, said he had been told by an industry executive that the new phone, made by Motorola, would be marketed by Cingular Wireless. Entner said it would include iTunes software, which helps power the iPod.

PC to phone

The software will allow people to transfer songs from a personal computer to the mobile phone, then listen to the songs, presumably through headphones.

"It's a deluxe music player now on your cellphone," he said of the device.

Apple, Motorola and Cingular all declined to confirm or deny the report. But Apple did announce on Monday that it would hold a major press event on Sept. 7 in San Francisco that it indicated was music-related. Apple is routinely tight-lipped about pending product announcements, preferring to make a splash on the day of the event.

The plans outlined for an Apple phone are consistent with recent announcements by Motorola, which said in July last year that it planned to develop a device that would include the iTunes software.

In July of this year, Motorola said that development of the iTunes phone was on track to be unveiled by the end of next month.

Jennifer Weyrauch, a spokeswoman for Motorola, declined on Monday to comment on Apple's announcement plans for next week. Weyrauch did say, generally speaking, that when Motorola unveiled a phone equipped with iTunes software, it would be a part of a line of music-oriented phones that the company calls Rokr.

The latest development is in many ways a natural evolution for mobile phones, which increasingly act as small computers with varied functions, such as taking pictures and sending and receiving e-mail. Cellphone users already spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year to download ring tones based on popular music.

Some phones already double as portable music players. Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, noted that within the last six weeks, the company had unveiled two phones, one made by Motorola and the other by Audiovox, onto which users can transfer songs from a personal computer.

It was not clear whether the iTunes phone would allow users to download songs directly from the Internet onto the phone, though music industry analysts said they doubt such a capability would be immediately available.

Mike McGuire, an online-music analyst with Gartner Inc, a research firm, said that so-called over-the-air downloads would involve ironing out technological and music-licensing issues.

Wireless downloads

But the day of wireless downloads of full songs is not far off, according to major wireless carriers. Sprint said on Monday that by the end of the year it planned to offer phones that allowed users to download full songs wirelessly. Nelson of Verizon Wireless said his company was also in the final stages of developing the capability.

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