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Monday, May 15, 2006, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Softbank downplays iPod cell phone report

Responding to reports that it had agreed to work with Apple Computer to develop iPod-branded cell phones, Softbank Corp. on Monday issued a statement calling such reports guesswork at best.

In the two-lined statement, the Tokyo, Japan-based IT company said it had made no such announcement regarding a deal with Apple and that published reports are simply assumptions by the media.

On Friday, The Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that Softbank President Masayoshi Son and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs have already met and reached a basic agreement to develop iPod-branded cell phones that would go on sale in Japan "sometime this year at the earliest."

Softbank was said to have been chosen by Apple because the company would also offer high-speed Internet access for the cell phones in Japan.

According to the report, Apple planned to later introduce similar cell phones in the United States.