Apple’s newest iPod to fit in your ear?

Apple Inc. has been riding the wave of success with its popular iPhone, iPad and iMac lines. However, the company’s iconic iPod MP3 music players, while still leading in the portable music player (PMP) field, have increasingly become relegated to irrelevance. While sales of the iPod line of PMPs have remained strong, they have not fared well in comparison to the tablets and smartphones for which Apple is now famous and which duplicate and build on the functionality of the lowly MP3 player.

However, in a bid to remain competitive and in a move to improve their PMP line while they still retain dominance of the field, the wizards of Cupertino have filed a patent for a new iPod that is integrated into a bluetooth headset and which does not require a hand held unit to function.

In the newly filed patent, Apple described what it termed a “Wireless headset with integrated media player” containing “additional functionality” that “allows it to be used during times that the external device with which it is wirelessly coupled is not being used, but when the headset is nevertheless being worn.”

This, Apple explains, would be achieved by

“integrating a media player into the wireless headset. The media player may be an audio player, capable, e.g., of playing audio files such as MPEG-3 (“MP3″) files. Optionally, the media player may include a recording function as well, so that a user can record voice notes. In addition, if the external device is a telephone (mobile or landline), the availability of a recording function could make it possible for the user to record all or part of a conversation. Similarly, voicemail messages received on the user’s telephone could be uploaded into the headset for later off-line playback. Media files recorded by the headset also could be downloaded to the external device.”

What this means, in short, is that instead of pairing your iPod to your bluetooth headphones, your headset would be your iPod. such a device, while most likely unable to utilize the ever popular Siri, would probably include voice commands.

While Apple has not announced plans for a roll-out of such a device, and indeed patents many ideas that it does not incorporate into finished products, such a move of Cupertino’s part would likely enable it o maintain the relevance of its MP3 line after the PMP’s functionality largely disappears as music players are relegated to apps on more versatile gadgets.

Apple last produced a bluetooth earpiece in 2007, the same year that it introduced the iPhone. It has since been discontinued.

Back when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod (see below), he promised to revolutionize the music business, a promise that he largely kept. However, it remains to be seen if his successors can maintain the forward momentum created by a once in a lifetime visionary.