HP to sell its own iPod in deal with Apple

HP to sell its own iPod in deal with Apple

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) plans to release a digital music player later this year based on Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod in a partnership between the companies announced Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) here in Las Vegas.

HP will also preinstall Apple's iTunes jukebox software on its consumer PCs and notebook systems, and add a desktop icon pointing customers to the iTunes online music store, HP said in a statement.

HP's player is due out this summer, according to the statement, which in North America means sometime between June and September. Further details, such as pricing, how the product will look and financial terms of the deal with Apple, were not immediately released. HP said the device would be competitively priced with others on the market. The 20G byte version of Apple's iPod retails for AUD$598.

Carly Fiorina, HP's chairman and chief executive officer, is likely to shed more light in a speech she is due to give Thursday afternoon here at CES.

HP had indicated plans to release a digital music player but the partnership with Apple took some by surprise. The company explored a range of options and decided a deal with Apple was the best course, Fiorina said in the statement.

For HP, she said, the move fits in with its broader digital entertainment system strategy. For Apple, it furthers its goal of getting iPods and iTunes in the hands of as many people as possible, Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive officer, said in the statement.

"As the industry balkanizes by offering digital music wrapped in a multitude of incompatible proprietary technologies, consumers will be reassured in getting the same unparalleled digital music solutions from both HP and Apple, two leaders in the digital music era." Jobs said in the statement.

The iPod, which works with both Macintosh computers and PCs, has been credited with taking digital music players into the mainstream. More than 2 million of them have been sold since it was introduced in 2001. The deal should make HP the first company to resell a version of Apple's product.

Earlier this week at Macworld in San Francisco, Apple said it would launch a smaller version of the iPod called the iPod mini, which will retail for US$249 and come with a 4G-byte hard drive. Its existing product comes with up to 40G bytes of storage. The companies didn't say whether HP also has designs on the smaller version.

HP said that according to its internal research, more than 54 percent of its current consumer customers download music to their PCs.

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