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Motorola chief says iTunes phones due this week

After much anticipation, Motorola on Thursday is expected to announce the first mobile handsets that will carry Apple\'s popular iTunes music software.

The company, which has been demonstrating embedded versions of the iTunes client on several prototype handsets, has caused wide-spread confusion about which model phones would be the first to officially feature Apple\'s iTunes. Thursday\'s announcement should set the record straight with a public unveiling of the phones at the CeBIT conference, a Newsweek report implies.

In the report, Motorola chief executive Ed Zander said that after selling more than a million of its new super-thin Razr phones with help from Cingular, he gave mobile phone chief Ron Garriques the green light on other ambitious design projects, like the Pebl.

The Pebl is described as a \'feminine counterpart to the masculine Razr,\' which drew its inspiration from the glossy stones found on riverbanks. Company design chief Jim Wicks said future high-end Motorola phones will carry either the Razr or Pebl design signature. The iTunes phones would presumably fall under one or both of these categories.

The new iTunes phones that will launch this month will allow customers to play their existing iTunes songs, and possibly buy new ones. But a potential roadblock for Motorola and Apple may be the wireless operators like Sprint, who are interested in setting up the stores themselves. Both Zander and analysts agree that carriers will ultimately get the first shot at selling songs on phones.

Motorola executives also hint at a third design family, the Rockr, which it hopes will begin to deliver the company\'s vision of \"seamless mobility.\" Zander claims that only Motorola has all the pieces of technology needed to turn phones into the center of our expanding digital lives. The Rockr, he says, might recognize songs being played in a club, let users download them to their phones and then send them home to their cable boxes and stereo.