After months of frenzied speculation, Apple Computer has unveiled an ultra-thin iPod about half the size of its iPod mini as well as a mobile phone built by Motorola that features the iTunes music player software.
Apple's new iPod nano wouldl feature 4GB of capacity for $US249 in a device that is thinner than a #2 pencil, Apple's chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, said at a jam-packed media event at San Francisco's Moscone Centre.
The iPod nano was 80 per cent smaller than Apple's original iPod and 62 per cent smaller than the iPod mini, Jobs said. It weighed 42gm and came with a colour screen. The device was available in some stores now, and stores around the world by the end of the week, he said.
Apple will also sell an iPod nano with 2GB of capacity for $US199.
"This is one of the most amazing products Apple has ever created," Jobs said.
The company also unveiled the Motorola Rokr (pronounced "rocker"). This is a Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Service GSM/GPRS) phone that features a button which allows direct access to the iTunes player.
Cingular Wireless will be the exclusive North American carrier for the phone, which is expected to be available in stores this weekend, Jobs said. Cingular planned to charge $US249 for the Rokr at its stores in the US, Apple and Cingular said in a release.
The phone comes with stereo headphones and a USB cable that is required to get songs from a PC or Mac to the phone. It showed up like an iPod in the iTunes music player allowing songs to be dragged to the phone's icon from an iTunes playlist, Jobs said.
Analysts and the famously loyal Apple fan base had worked themselves into a fever pitch debating the subject of Wednesday's event since Apple sent out an invitation last week. But Apple and Motorola have been discussing the development of an iTunes phone for more than a year, and Motorola's CEO, Ed Zander, promised analysts in July the phone was on the way.
Apple needed to continuously expand its distribution model if it wants to stay on top of the digital music market, director of research at NPD Techworld, Stephen Baker, said.
The Rokr would show whether Apple can take iTunes to devices other than the extremely popular iPod music players, and mobile phones are a natural place to start, he said.
"Cell phones are the most ubiquitous electronic device on the planet," Baker said. "Given the volume of the cell phone business, the distribution imperatives say you have to have a deal there."
Even if the user experience on Rokr was not as good as the one provided by an iPod, as long as it is sufficient, users should embrace the combination of a music player and a phone, Baker said.
"Do you get a better experience with a camera phone [than with a digital camera]? No," Baker said.
This hadn't stopped phone users from embracing camera-equipped mobile phones, he said.
Some analysts and Mac users had speculated the iTunes phone might allow over-the-air downloads of songs, but digital music lovers, at least in the US, weren't quite ready for that yet, a research director at Gartner, Mike McGuire, said.
"When it comes to online media, we're a very PC-centric culture," McGuire said. It's just easier for Apple and the industry to convince users to move their PC-based songs to a mobile device, rather than trying to introduce a whole new way of acquiring digital music, he said.
And if Apple didn't release an iTunes phone, a competitor would have surely attempted to erode Apple's dominance of the music player market with a similar device, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates, Roger Kay, said.
The iPod nano wouldhelp keep the iPod lineup fresh heading into the fourth-quarter holiday season, Kay said.
It helped erase some of the concerns that active iPod users might have had about jostling their hard drive-based iPods by using flash memory, which is more stable than a hard drive because of the lack of moving parts, he said.