Now it’s the mini iPod

Now it’s the mini iPod

The iPod now has a sibling. Apple Computer’s chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, unveiled a slimmed down companion to its iPod portable music player during a keynote address at Apple’s user conference in San Francisco.

The announcement came at the end of a wide-ranging two-hour keynote during which Jobs covered Apple’s broadening range of commercial ventures in the realms of online music, digital media editing software, and even super­computing.

The iPod mini, which is expected to launch in Australia in April, will be about 1.3cm thick and about the length and width of a business card. With a tiny 4GB hard drive, it will be able to hold about 1000 songs — about one-tenth as many as Apple’s current top of the line iPod, which ships with a 40GB hard drive, Jobs said.

While local pricing hasn’t been announced for the iPod mini, it will retail in the US for $US249 when it debuts in February.

The iPod mini will target the 31 per cent of the digital music player market that is now dominated by flash memory player vendors such as Digital Media Networks’ Rio audio player, Jobs said.

“We looked at this high-end flash market and we want to go after that,” Jobs said.

Apple sold 730,000 iPods during its most recent quarter, and shipped its two millionth iPod sometime in December, he said.

Apple’s CEO began his keynote by playing Apple’s famous “1984” television commercial, which launched the Apple Macintosh, and said that Apple’s current transition to the Unix-based Mac OS X was a similarly important milestone in the company’s history.

With 40 per cent of Apple’s installed base of 9.3 million users now running OS X, he said, this transition was “now over”, he said.

Jobs also touted new software for Mac OS X, such as Microsoft’s Office 2004, Macromedia’s Director MX, and Bakbone Software’s NetVault as proof of the success of this transition. The Mac OS X platform now boasts about 10,000 applications, according to Jobs.

He unveiled some of his company’s new software on stage, including a new version of Final Cut Express video editing software called Final Cut Express 2.

Jobs also demonstrated the latest version of Apple’s iLife multimedia editing suite, iLife ‘04, which will begin shipping free with the Macintosh, or for $49 separately, from last Friday.

The suite is designed to be as essential to the management of multimedia files as Microsoft Office has become for business documents, Jobs said.

“iLife ‘04 is like Microsoft Office for the rest of your life,” he said.

It will include a new music editing application called GarageBand, which Jobs demonstrated onstage with the help of musician John Mayer.

GarageBand can be used to digitally mix up to 64 music tracks that can either be recorded live or created with the 50 software “instruments” included in the program.

“It turns your Mac into a pro­fessional quality musical instrument and complete recording studio,” Jobs said. “One half of all households have at least one person who currently plays a musical instrument,” he added. “This is a really big market and we think GarageBand is going to appeal to these folks.”

On the music consumer side of things, Jobs announced that Apple’s iTunes music service had now sold its 30 millionth song, and was now distributing close to 1.9 million songs per week, out of a total catalogue of half a million songs.

“The iTunes music store has 70 per cent of the legal downloads,” Jobs said, citing figures from research firm Nielsen SoundScan. “It feels great to get above that 5 per cent, doesn’t it?” he said, referring to Apple’s personal computer market share. The company has yet to make the music service available in Australia.

Not completely ignoring his company’s computer roots, Jobs also unveiled a new dual-processor 1U (4.4cm high) Xserve server. Based on a 2.0GHz PowerPC processor, the Xserve will start at $US4799 for single processor and cluster-optimised configurations when it begins shipping in February.

Apple also announced a new Xserve RAID storage system. The 3U high availability, rack storage system has capacity of 3.5TB of storage.

Available from February, pricing starts at $US9799.

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