Latest baffling rumor: Apple planning iPhone lite, tablet with Verizon?

The latest rumor to roil the Apple fanbase comes from Business Week, and it goes something like this: Apple is plotting with Verizon to launch a couple of new products, maybe as early as this summer. One is a new iPhone of the sort that has been predicted and/or demanded by analysts more or less for the last year: smaller, cheaper, "feature reduced." The other would be the 10-inch touchscreen tablet whosit, rumors concerning which have also been roiling for the past several months. The tablet would, according to BW's source, "let users listen to music, view photos, and watch high-definition videos ... It would place calls over a Wi-Fi connection."

Now, there are any number of data points here to question. The first, and most obvious, is: are an iPhone lite and a media tablet good ideas? I've been pretty skeptical about the tablet for a while; I just can't imagine anything without a real keyboard being useful enough to justify whatever pretty penny Apple decides to charge for it. But I suppose if you really believe that high-def video downloaded from the Internet is the future of entertainment -- which I'm guessing that Apple does -- you might try something like this out. (Note to Hulu: start figuring out a non-Flash-based way to deliver content now.) As for the iPhone nano, the analysts aren't wrong in saying that a cheaper iPhone would sell like hotcakes, and so again I can see why Apple would be exploring this territory. But how much cheaper can an iPhone be and still be an iPhone? The iPhone's appeal is, in essence, that it's a tiny computer; strip away enough features, and what's left standing is ... a phone. There are plenty of those out there. Still, the Apple might have something up its collective sleeve to make an low-rent iPhone that still has something to offer.

But then there's the part I really don't believe, which is all the stuff about Verizon. First off, this flies in the phase of the simplicity principle that underlies Apple's whole marketing strategy. How are you going to explain that this product is on one network but that one is on another? And wouldn't that leave Apple with two disgruntled and mutually distrustful partners to deal with? Add in the fact that Tim Cook recently dismissed Verizon's CDMA network as a dead end, which would make the decision to develop a product set to use it a waste of resources.

Oh, and one more thing. Check that description up above of the media tablet -- it will make its phone calls over Wi-Fi. If that's the case, why on earth does a wireless carrier need to be involved at all? Something doesn't smell right.

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