Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL) has filed to trademark the phrase "Mobile Me" for use in a wide range of businesses, furthering speculation it could introduce an iPod phone.

"We believe this is further indication of [Apple's] strategic direction to extend its iPod + iTunes and Mac franchises into new business areas including smart phones, value-added mobile content services, and the broader consumer electronics space," American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu wrote in a note on Thursday.

Apple made the filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on January 5.

There has long been speculation that Apple would ultimately introduce an iPod that also works as a smart phone, extending its brand and functions as more content becomes digital and mobile. In addition to music, one model of the iPod also now plays videos and purchased content such as TV shows.

The areas that the trademark covers include computing devices, mobile devices, and mobile services including digital music, video, games, e-mail, and messaging across Internet, intranets, extranets, television, cellular, and satellite networks, the filing shows.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

This week, at Apple's annual Macworld show in San Francisco, Chief Executive Steve Jobs announced the MacBook Pro, which will replace the PowerBook line of its high-end notebook PCs, and a new iMac all-in-one computer.

The two machines are the first that use Intel Corp.'s (INTC) Core Duo microprocessors. Apple said in June it would move to Intel chips from the PowerPC chips it had used for years, made by International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) and Freescale Semiconductor Inc. (FSL)

There has also been speculation that Apple would, along with an iPod phone, resell cellular phone service provided by a cell service provider, becoming what's known as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO.

"We believe this would be a successful strategy, given the type of content and markets Apple has had success in," Wu wrote, referring to mobile music, video and the youth market.