Apple’s Video iPod Leads Product Parade

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Today’s Apple product blitz rollout makes yesterday’s news of Microsoft and RealNetworks alliance look like just that –- yesterday’s news.

Moving aggressively to cement its dominant position as an online music provider, Apple rolled out new models of its best-selling iPod with video features and updated its iTunes music software to version 6 only five weeks after the release of version 5.

“The wide model (the mainstream iPod) was a huge success, so it was time to replace it,” joked an ebullient Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, before a packed audience at the California Theater here.

The newest two iPods boast the largest storage capacities to date for the iPod at 30GB and 60GB ($299 and $399 respectively) and are also thinner than the earlier 20GB model it replaces.

iPod Video
Watch music videos, TV shows and movies on the new iPod.
Source: Apple

More significantly, the new iPods can display video in a 320×240 format that can also be displayed on an iMac once connected.

Music videos are now available at Apple’s iTunes store for $1.99 each.

In addition to music videos, movie trailers and short films at its iTunes store, Apple announced a landmark deal with ABC to distribute six television programs, including the two hits “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives”.

The hour-long shows will be available for $1.99 each. All episodes from the past and current season are available. New shows can be purchased the day after broadcast.

The choice of ABC as a partner was a stunner because Jobs broke off a lucrative relationship with ABC parent Walt Disney to distribute Pixar films. Jobs is chairman and CEO of Pixar and had a contentious relationship with former Disney CEO Michael Eisner. His successor, Bob Iger appeared on stage with Jobs.

“Everyone at Walt Disney is excited about extending our relationship with Steve,” said Iger. “We’re excited about the intersection of great content and technology and the marriage it creates,”

As for renewing its contract with Pixar? “Maybe another time,” Iger added.

“I think Apple is making some nice incremental moves here with video,” Roger Kay, analyst with Endpoint Technologies, told “By getting a few shows on there and short videos, they are doing what is reasonable for them to do now without having to build a whole new infrastructure required to handle more shows and movies.

“I also suspect the video on the small screen iPod will appeal mainly to kids who are the only ones happy to squish their faces close to a screen like the GameBoy’s to use it.”

Remote control
Remotely controlling Front Row.
Source: Apple

But the iPod release was only part of the story, as Apple gears up for the holiday shopping season. The company unveiled an updated iMac line with bigger and faster models. The new iMac G5 with integral 17-inch monitor includes 512MB of RAM and 160GB of storage and runs $1,299, which is the same price as the model it replaces.

The new 20-inch iMac G5 includes 512MB of RAM and 250GB of storage and is priced at $1,699.

Also included for the first time on the iMac is a built-in iSight video camera and iChat AV video conferencing software. In a demo Jobs had a four-way video conference going in less than a minute.

Jobs also showcased new software called Front Row, which ships with the new iMacs and allow access to photos, video, DVDs or music playlists.

With Front Row comes a slick remote control that is bundled with every new iMac. The remote has six buttons and is a fraction of the size of remotes that ship with PCs designed for Windows Media Center, which have over 40 buttons.

Front Row can be accessed at the push of a button on the remote and calls up four icons for easy access to the content viewers want to watch.

Another new bundled application, Photo Booth, had the audience chuckling in appreciation.

In homage to classic photo booths, the software brings the user inside an old-style photo booth and a timer clicks off the second till its time for the shot, which includes a flash of light.

Photo Booth also includes an assortment of effects to morph the images in a variety of ways.

Proving he continues to run a tight ship in an era of gossip, rumors and information leaks from virtually every institution and company that matters, Jobs and company kept much of the product details and the Disney relationship and the iMacs under wraps till today.

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