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Could Treo Stiff-Arm an iPhone?

I've long wondered when Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) would finally introduce its own smartphone. Doing so just makes sense. For example, ABI Research recently said that music downloads to mobile devices grew by 2,000% in 2005, and phone users fueled much of that growth. Mac fans will also remember that Apple once had a cult-like following for the Newton portable digital assistant, a precursor to Palm's (Nasdaq: PALM  ) Pilot.

My guess had been that Apple would preview an iPhone no later than next year's Macworld expo. The thesis took shape in January, when Palm rolled out its new 700 series Treo smartphone for Windows Mobile. But I wasn't the only one -- the online world had been abuzz with speculation that Palm was about to drop the Palm OS for good.

Then, the week after the new 700's debut, Apple filed a trademark application for the term "Mobile Me," which, according to, covers everything from cellular to mobile services, including digital music. It seemed, as Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) CEO Ed Zander has said, only a matter of time before an iPhone made its way to the shelves of Apple retail stores across the land.

Alas, that hasn't happened. And now I wonder whether a breakthrough will occur anytime soon, because on Monday, Palm introduced a Palm OS version of its Treo 700. The new smartphone contains a number of new features, the most touted of which is EvDO, or Evolution Data Optimized, which provides near-broadband connectivity through select mobile networks. Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S  ) , which will be the first to resell the new Treo, is one such provider.

Certainly, the new Treo wouldn't prevent Apple from introducing an iPhone. But there has been a notable void in the selection of feature-rich smartphones for Mac addicts like me. The Treo seems to be the popular choice, but it has lacked high-speed connectivity and much integration with the Mac's native software. The new 700 won't solve the latter problem, but I'm guessing that the beefed-up connectivity for speedier downloads, streaming media, and the like could make a difference to discerning Mac users.

Is an iPhone in our future? I'm less convinced today than I was a few months ago. But one thing is for sure: As good as the Treo 700 appears to be, if Apple launches an iPhone that blends geeky and cool as well as the iPod does and the Newton did, I'll leave my Treo in a heartbeat. Sorry, Palm. It's nothing personal. It's just a Mac thing.

Palm is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Ask for us anall-access pass, and you'll get a backstage look at all of the stocks that are helping David and Tom Gardner beat the S&P 500 by more than 30% each as of this writing. It's free for 30 days. All you have to lose is the prospect of a richer portfolio.

Fool contributorTim Beyersowns a Treo 600 but no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out which stocks he owns by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.

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