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Apple Bows New iPods, HD Programming

9 Sep, 2008 By: Erik Gruenwedel

The fourth-generation iPod Nano

Borrowing a line from Mark Twain by saying media reports “of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs Sept. 9 unveiled updated (thinner and cheaper) iPods and a new iTunes platform — the latter featuring high-definition TV shows for the first time.

The quip opened the “Let’s Rock” iPod media event in San Francisco and was in reference to an erroneously published obituary last month by Bloomberg News on the 53-year-old Jobs, who has battled pancreatic cancer.

The updated iTunes 8 now features HD television programming at $2.99 an episode (playable on a PC and Apple TV), compared to $1.99 for standard definition.

Jobs said NBC primetime TV programming was returning to iTunes following a one-year hiatus. At the time, Apple had refused to pay the network’s increased license fees.

The CEO said iTunes remains the No. 1 music distributor of any format in the United States, with more than 8.5 million songs, 125,000 podcasts, 30,000 TV episodes and 3,000 applications.

The executive said more than 100 million media applications have been downloaded since first made available at Apple’s App Store two months ago. New selections include video games Spore Origins from Electronic Arts and Real Soccer 2009 from Gameloft.

Apple also unveiled a 120GB iPod Classic (holds 30,000 songs) for $249. Previously the 80GB model sold for $248.

A fourth-generation iPod Nano is longer, oval-shaped and thinner than its predecessor. The unit can be shaken to shuffle the song playlist. A single battery charge accommodates both 24 hours of music and four hours of video.

The 8GB and 16GB units cost $149 and $199, respectively.

Citing data from The NPD Group, Jobs said the iPod has a 73.4% market share, followed by other MP3 players at 15.4%, SanDisk at 8% and the Microsoft Zune at 2.6%.

"We think we've got the best lineup [of iPods] we've ever had for this holiday season," he said.

The new iPod Touch is also thinner and features software called “Genius” that allows users to create automatic song and video play lists based on their catalog and those of 65 million other iTunes music store members. The updated unit can play 36 hours of music and 6 hours of video.

The 8GB Touch is $229 (down from $299); the 16GB is $299 (down from $399); and the 32GB is $399.

“This is the funnest iPod ever,” Jobs said.

Despite speculation Apple might announce incorporating Blu-ray technology into Apple TV or related products, independent technology analyst Rob Enderle said the new optical disc format is not in Apple’s business strategy.

“Apple’s strategy for movies revolves around iTunes and AppleTV,” Enderle said. “Like Microsoft, they have moved on from high-def packaged media. It’s not their thing.”

The company also announced a free 2.1 software upgrade (from Apple.com) for original Touch devices in addition to 2.1 software for the iPhone that claims to reduce dropped calls, system crashes, improve battery life and connect to iTunes faster.

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