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Apple Computer, the maker of popular iPod digital media players and Macintosh computers, may be very serious about its plans to enter cell phone business and reportedly is planning to sell millions of its handsets in the first half of next year, according to reports from Taiwan.

Foxconn Electronics, the world’s largest contract manufacturer of electronics equipment, will reportedly manufacture and ship 12 million of the so-called Apple iPhone devices, Chinese-language Commercial Times is quoted as reporting by DigiTimes web-site. The news-paper further indicated that Apple plans to release its handset in the first half of the year, but did not reveal many details concerning the plan.

For the cell phone market 12 million handsets is not a significant number, however, Apple wants its phones to either compliment or substitute at least some of its iPod players. That said, 12 million of cell phone/player hybrids is a large amount even for Apple Computer, who controls over 75% of the whole digital media player market. Back in Q4 2005 the company shipped 14.043 million of iPod players, in Q1 2006 the company sold 8.526 million iPods, in Q2 2006 the firm supplied about 8.111 million of its iPod devices and in Q3 2006 it shipped 8.729 million iPods, up from 6.451 million in the same period a year ago.

The information about massive launch of the iPhone contradicts earlier claims by analysts, who said that the first generation iPhone will be more of a test vehicle rather than a product release in mass quantities starting from day 1. Such opinions could be conditioned by moderate initial performance of Motorola Rokr iTunes phone.

It was reported earlier that Steve Jobs, the head of Apple, was so excited about Apple’s iPhone that he has produced several “zealous ramblings amongst personal acquaintances” since spring. It was also claimed that “incremental buzz surrounding the phone” has increased recently and that the long-discussed phone would be released “earlier than some people may be expecting”.

Financial analysts have been talking about Apple iPod phone for several quarters now, as this type of product would be able to leverage the company’s digital media franchise as well as drive Apple’s sales up. Analysts from Prudential Equity Group recently indicated that there are two models coming, including one that has Wi-Fi capability.

Apple Computer and Foxconn Electronics did not comment on the news-story.

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