Report: Apple Developing iChat Smartphone

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)
This article is now exclusive for PRO subscribers.

The early indications on sales of the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Zune show no impact on sales of Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPods. That’s the word this morning from Steve Lidberg, an analyst at Pacific Crest.

“Initial findings suggest that the introduction of the Zune has had little effect on the iPod’s dominance of the U.S. MP3 player market,” Lidberg wrote this morning. “On, Apple iPod held three of the top-four-selling electronics devices, while the black Zune ranked 18th. On CircuitCity. com, Apple controls nine of the top 14 MP3 player spots, with the black Zune ranking 15th. While Zune may take some incremental share from second tier players such as SanDisk (SNDK) and Creative Labs (OTCPK:CREAF), we believe Apple will maintain its approximately 75% share of the U.S. market.”

Meanwhile, Shaw Wu of American Technology Research says he is “picking up” that Apple is working on a second iTunes cell phone that will feature “messaging” capabilities, with a focus on mobile IM rather than e-mail. Wu says that “time to market is not certain to us as it appears to be in the development phase.”

Wu says he believes this product is AAPL’s “smart phone” and could be branded as “iChat mobile”. Wu says he remains uncertain on the exact timing for iPhone, “AAPL’s first in-house iTunes cell phone with a nano-like candy bar form factor,” though 2007 is likely and the first half of the year is possible.

Wu also says that the new Red iPods, 4 GB and 8GB Nanos, are selling well. “We are currently modeling 14 million iPods for the December quarter, but given RED nano momentum, we believe our forecast will likely turn out conservative.”

Apple shares today are up 51 cents at $86.36.