Apple Launches Latest iPod

After getting kicked around in the desktop world, Apple Computer
is hoping a pair of new iPods and its partnership with HP will
help maintain its massive lead in digital music players and online music
sales.

The firm launched a new 20GB model for $299 and a
40GB model for $399. The two stark white digital audio players, out today,
are the fourth generation of the iPod device family since its
debut. After some delays with its suppliers, Apple also
confirmed that it will ship its colorful iPod mini to international markets
starting July 24.

The new units now include a click wheel similar to Apple’s iPod mini, as
well as an improved 12 hours of battery life and the ability to recharge
over FireWire or USB ports. The company said it decided
to drop production on its 15GB iPod in favor of a price reduction. Apple is
reportedly working on a 60GB iPod. While Apple execs declined to comment,
Toshiba inadvertently slipped the news out a few weeks ago that it was
contracted to develop such a drive for Apple.

Already, Apple has found a big buyer for the new iPods. Greg Joswiak,
Apple vice president of hardware products, told internetnews.com that
Duke University will distribute the new iPod to approximately 1,800 of its
incoming freshmen as a learning aid. The University will also provide
supplementary content like lectures and audio books in iPod-friendly ACC
format that students can purchase. The new 20GB and 40GB
versions also allow for playback 20 percent slower as well as 20 percent
faster for speed-listening to a long novel or carefully reviewing a
professor’s notes.

“This is all part of our strategy to be number one and stay number one,”
Joswiak said.

Overall, iPod has been a shot in the arm for Apple. The company is
boasting upwards of 860,000 units shipped in the last three months (50
percent market share) and prides itself on 70 percent dominance in all songs
bought online. Apple even reached its milestone 100 million songs downloaded
last week. The iPod also helped Apple achieve a positive quarterly financial
position with earnings of 17 cents a share and a 30 percent boost in
revenues, up to $2.01 billion, topping $1.94 billion forecasts.

But the Macintosh maker may soon see its greatest revenues from its iPod
family, as HP chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina said her
company would debut the HP version of the iPod starting in September. The
announcement is the fruition of a deal announced
back in January that allows for an HP-branded digital music
player based on Apple’s iPod specifications.

Siobhan O’Connor, HP vice president of brand communications for consumer
products, told internetnews.com that HP decided to wait for the fourth
generation iPod mainly because of its overall consumer experience.

“HP looked at all the different options in the field and we thought this
iPod was heads above the rest,” O’Connor said. “The USB charging is really
important to our customers, as well as the additional battery life and the
ease of use with the click wheel.”

Joswiak said HP’s relationship is very important to Apple, because of its
ties to the PC world.

“HP has been very supportive in pre-installing iTunes on their desktop
systems,” Joswiak said. “They expect to do a great distribution, which is
important for our iPod ecosystem.

The Apple/HP partnership is also a swipe at Dell ,
which is trying to sell its own music player. The company offered its own
15GB Dell Digital Jukebox music player for $99 to
customers who send in an iPod for recycling.

“When you are not selling many of your players, you have to resort to
some drastic stunts,” Joswiak retorted.

Another revenue stream for Apple comes to it via third-party partners
such as Griffin and Belkin. Joswiak said there were more than 200
accessories created specifically for the iPod that allow multiple functions
like recording voice, taking pictures and accessing broadcast radio
stations. And while Joswiak said the iPod ecosystem is robust, Apple has no
immediate plans to open up the development process beyond the Cupertino
campus.

“We haven’t positioned the iPod to develop outside software and we have
not opened up the APIs because we are still innovating and still coming up
with new ideas,” Joswiak said. “If we did open it up, either we would have
to slow down production or yank our third parties away from their work.”

Joswiak pointed out that there is currently one software development
program available from Apple. The company is making some specifications
available as part of the iPod’s “NotesOnly
mode (also called Museum Mode), which allows for custom or
restricted user interfaces for special purposes.

Beyond that, Apple said it is currently looking for developers that are
interested in developing accessories.

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