New York Times columnist John Markoff is speculating that Apple may enter the mobile phone market, with a product he calls iPhone.

The columnist suggests that Apple has a deal with iPod designer Pixo to manufacture another product, perhaps the iPhone. He also examines Palm and Apple's sometimes complex record for establishing connectivity between their products.

Markoff believes that many Mac OS X 10.2 features would suit future phones – allowing chat, address book, mail and automatic networking, for example.

Future features Such features are expected to appear in next-generation, "point-of-presence-based" mobile and fixed telephony services, as network operators combine voice and data onto single networks. This combination offers operators substantial cost reductions, and end users major advances in usability, analysts claim.

Point-of-presence (POP) is an access point (IP address) to the Internet, commonly used by ISPs and some mail servers. A POP has a unique IP address. Next-generation POP services extend services based on IP addresses to individual users – often using Bluetooth wireless technology. As data and voice calls are increasingly supported by the same networks, such services use routers and servers to identify IP based communication, so voice traffic can be carried on IP networks, for example.

Jobs has steered clear of the PDA market. He has described it as “not the happiest market to be in right now”, and Markoff reports Jobs believes PDAs will one day “be subsumed by the telephone”.

iSync signs However, Jobs wants to bring all such products to Apple's “digital hub”, analysts claim. iSync is the company's Mac OS X solution for synchronizing data between Macs, mobiles and PDA's.

Apple already has good links with the mobile phone industry – most particularly Sony Ericsson. That company is working with Apple to introduce QuickTime support to its products, it uses a version of the Symbian operating system in its phones, called “Thin Quartz”.

There's an increasing number of handsets scheduled to appear that use Symbian – and Apple's work with Sony Ericsson could help make Macs compatible with them.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated such connectivity, using iSynch and an Ericsson handset (the P800) at Macworld Expo, New York last month.

A Bluetooth-enabled Mac could link up to a Bluetooth-enable mobile phone, for example – perhaps sharing such evolving services as presence-based Instant Messaging, or Voice over IP networks, for example.

A telecom's industry insider told Macworld: “Apple may design a phone, but doesn’t have a mobile network. The company would have to work with network providers to market the product.”

“There's no question that Apple could design a cool phone,” agreed Bear Stearns analyst Andy Neff, “The key is being able to build an infrastructure.”

Jobs is rumoured to have offered $1 billion in the past to acquire Palm.