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Friday, November 07, 2008, 07:15 am PT (10:15 am ET)

AT&T chief lays out futuristic vision for the iPhone

Before a future version of Apple's iPhone wakes you up in the morning, it will have downloaded the morning's news feeds and sent a message to your coffee maker to begin brewing a fresh pot, says AT&T Mobile chief Ralph de la Vega.

Those are just two examples from a laundry list of future capabilities rattled off by the executive at the Web 2.0 Summit Thursday during his interview with TechCrunch's Michael Arrington — the same conversation that brought word of an application under development at AT&T that will soon give way to an official iPhone 3G tethering solution.

If you'd rather read the morning news on your TV while you sip your fresh brewed cup of Joe, you'll be able to simply wave the handset towards the TV to throw the day's feeds up on the big screen, de la Vega added.

"Some of this sounds pretty far-flung to me, and if this were some start-up company talking about these 'exciting new plans,' I'd probably take it with a grain of salt," wrote PC World's Mark Sullivan. "But in my experience, AT&T plays it pretty close to the vest on its future plans, and usually does what it says it will do, eventually."

De la Vega's vision for future iPhone features isn't confined to the home. He told Arrington that you'll be able to use the handset to lock your doors on the way out each morning, then start your car. There will also be little need to fiddle with your car radio while battling morning rush hour traffic, because the iPhone will start reading the remainder of the day's news to you using its text-to-speech capabilities.

While at work, he continued, the iPhone will orchestrate a conference call with two potential clients in the Far East. You speak English, they speak Japanese. That's not a problem, however, because the iPhone will handle the automatic translations in real time.

De la Vega also noted that AT&T is performing extensive testing within its labs regarding previously announced plans to integrate the handset with U-Verse, its suite of Internet television and VoIP services.

The goal is to allow customers to listen to their voice mails on their TV, and download shows from their digital video recorders onto their iPhones. A new application for the handset would reportedly serve as a television remote that will let users search the Web and TV listings via the iPhone's virtual keyboard.

In addition to its normal network upgrade process, the AT&T chief also revealed during the interview that his firm plans to begin using a new swath of 850 MHz spectrum to improve its 3G signal quality in densely populated areas such as New York City.