iPod Chief Not Excited About iTunes Phone

In an interview with the German daily Berliner Zeitung on Monday, Apple vice president and iPod division head Jon Rubenstein expressed his feelings on the convergence of music devices and cell phones, saying the devices are best left separate.

The remarks were published the same day Motorola CEO Ed Zander was criticized in the media over his "Screw the nano" statement made at a leadership conference in California on Friday. The recent comments made by either side -- whether a joke or not -- emphasize just how tenuous the Apple-Motorola relationship may be.

"Is there a toaster that also knows how to brew coffee? There is no such combined device, because it would not make anything better than an individual toaster or coffee machine," Rubenstein argued. "It works the same way with the iPod, the digital camera or mobile phone: it is important to have specialized devices."

Rubenstein seemed to throw cold water on plans to make future iTunes capable phones, saying the company has a wait and see attitude on how the product is received. However, don't expect the ROKR to become the future direction of the iPod itself, he said.

Apple remains open to the idea of a subscription-based service, although company vice president Phil Schiller who also was present at the interview said Apple still thinks most consumers want to own their music. "We believe customers want to pay for songs, which then can be taken everywhere and also be burned to a CD," he added.

Rubenstein expressed confidence that the iPod would not follow a similar route as the Sony Walkman, which sold hundreds of millions of units, yet faded away as rivals copied the design and stole market share.

"The iPod is substantially more difficult to copy than that Walkman was," he explained. "It contains a whole ecosystem of different elements, which coordinate with each other: hardware, software, and our iTunes Music store on the Internet," a support system the Walkman did not have.

Finally, when asked if Apple may make a return to the PDA market through the iPod, both Schiller and Rubenstein agreed that such a move "would not be a good business for Apple."

Calling it a niche market, "basic functions of PDAs such as calendars and address books have long been built into mobile phones," Schiller explained. Similar functions have also been available on the iPod for quite awhile now, Rubenstein said.

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