Apple Computer Inc. moved to make its products more affordable for the masses, unveiling its cheapest Macintosh computer ever and a version of its iPod digital music player for less than U.S. $100.
Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and CEO, announced the new products at the Macworld show in San Francisco, CA, U.S. He also said Apple had sold 4.5 million units of the various models of its blockbuster iPod in the 2004 holiday quarter.
Apple has traditionally aimed for high-end markets both for its Mac computers and the iPod, eschewing discount models. But the company reversed that course with the $99 "iPod shuffle" and the $499 "Mac mini." The new products expand Apple's 4-year-old "digital hub" and could broaden Apple's market considerably, analysts said.
The "iPod shuffle" is shaped like a pack of gum with no display screen. The smaller one, with 512 megabyte of memory, holds about 120 songs and costs $99. The larger one holds 1 gigabyte, or about 240 songs, and costs $149.
The lack of a screen may discourage some consumers, but it is too soon to tell, said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies. "It's designed for use with the PC and the assumption that people will use their personal computer to manage their music anyway."
The new iPod falls into a category of music players that use "flash memory," drives like those found in digital cameras and some portable media players, rather than the hard drives used in current iPods.
Mr. Jobs said the iPod holds a 65-percent share of the entire market for portable digital music players, up from only 31 percent a year earlier.
Given that sort of consumer support, he said a number of car companies like Mercedes-Benz USA, Volvo and Ferrari would integrate the iPod line into their car stereo systems.
The "Mac mini" will come in $499 and $599 models, depending on processor speed and hard-drive size. Weighing less than 3 lb and measuring under 2-in tall, the mini connects to televisions as well as PC monitors.
Financial analysts, alerted to the mini by rumor sites now being sued by Apple, have said it would appeal to iPod users on the Windows operating system.
"What we are doing is adding a product that reaches even more people," said Phil Schiller, Apple's head of Worldwide Marketing. "Consideration of the Mac is a lot higher than it has been in some time."
Apple also unveiled iLife 05, its suite of software to manage music, create DVDs, and manage and edit digital photographs; and iWork, which contains an updated version of its Keynote presentation software and a new word processing software program called Pages. (Reuters)
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