Speculation that Apple will ship a flash-based iPod continues to mount.

Business Week's Alex Salkever reports continued speculation in this week's 'Byte of the Apple' column, pointing out Apple CEO Steve Jobs' astute political handling of such questions: " Even when he says "never," you can never really be sure".

While Apple denies that it's interested in launching such a product, many in the industry expect that, "Jobs will reveal a flash-memory music player at the next Macworld Expo in January," he writes.

He suggests that Apple may be encouraged to do this by the health and size of the flash-based music player market, with strong sales in Apple's weakest Far East market, he says.

Thomas Weisel Partners analyst, Jason Pflaum, continues to predict Apple will deliver the product, at a lower price and lower capacity. There's a market to play for, with SigmaTel shipping five million MP3 controller chips in its last quarter.

"The SigmaTel shipments alone imply that the global flash player market is significantly above 35 million units on an annual basis", said Salkever. He adds that such a product could add up to $1 billion in revenue to Apple's bottom line.