“Apple Computer Inc., known for its secrecy about new products, has given the strongest signal yet it’s working on an iPod phone that analysts said could be released early next year,” Bloomberg News reports.

“‘The biggest part of (Wednesday’s) call was the iPhone,’ said Piper Jaffray Co. analyst Gene Munster, based in Minneapolis. ‘It was the closest we could get to the announcement of a new product from Apple.’ An iPod phone may be released in the first half of 2007, Munster said. Merrill Lynch & Co. analyst Richard Farmer pegged the release in the first quarter,” Bloomberg News reports.

“‘The company is investing heavily in iPod and iTunes engineering and is very enthusiastic about its products in the pipeline,” Oppenheimer said. The mobile-phone market may approach 1 billion units in 2008, Merrill’s Farmer said. Every 1 percent share of the market Apple captures could add as much as $3 billion to the company’s sales, Farmer told clients in a note Thursday after raising his rating on Apple shares to ‘buy.’ That’s based on a device that will sell for about $300, the New York-based analyst said,” Bloomberg News reports.

Full article here.

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