Microsoft talks down rumored iPod phone plans

A number of analysts have claimed Apple will launch an iPod phone at the Macworld expo this week, and Microsoft, too, seems to expect no less. That said, CNet quotes the president of Microsoft's entertainment and services division, Robbie Bach, as saying that Apple will face "tough hurdles" if it ends up launching the device. Bach says the "latest rumors" suggest the phone will be sold through an Apple-branded cell phone service via a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), through which Apple would lease excess capacity from carriers.

However, Bach says there "hasn't been a lot of successes in that MVNO space for a lot of different reasons." MVNO operators tend to have difficult relationships with mobile operators, he claims, and Apple allegedly has a reputation of not being very good at working with partners. Bach also says putting together a music-playing phone is a design challenge. "You have to find out what it's great at. Is it great as a phone or is it great as music player? If it's great as a music player, then it's just another iPod trying to be a phone."

Interestingly, while Microsoft has stated in the past that a cell phone would "definitely be part of the [Zune] brand," Bach told CNet not to expect such a device just yet.

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