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IPOD MINI A BIG DEAL FOR APPLE
Steve Jobs Introduces Smaller, Cheaper Player at MacWorld Expo
“Think Different” became “Think Cheaper” yesterday as Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPod Mini digital music player at the annual MacWorld show in San Francisco.

The new player is smaller than the standard iPod at a half inch thick and roughly business card size. It also holds fewer tunes—about 1,000 on a four-gigabyte disc. The $249 price tag is $50 less than the least expensive standard iPod.

But according to reports, analysts were expecting the new device to be priced as low as $100. Apple has been working on the iPod mini as a way of staving off competition from cheaper, flash-memory-based players.

Still, Apple has sold over 2 million standard iPods at $299 and up—including a surprising 730,000 in the last quarter. The company currently claims a 31% share of the market for portable digital music players, in part thanks to a massive advertising campaign that has helped cement the iPod’s “cool” factor in the minds of millions.

Apple hopes the iPod mini will help it maintain and grow that marketshare as it faces increased competition from hard-disc-based players from companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony.

The iPod Mini announcement compes as Apple’s iTunes online music store has expanded to beyond 500,000 tracks. Apple has also struck a deal with Pepsi to give away 100 million song downloads by placing winning codes in soda bottle caps in a massive promotion that will launch with a Super Bowl ad next month. Apple says it has sold 30 million songs through iTunes since its launch last year.

While this all sounds promising, the news isn’t all good: According to UK web site The Register, Norwegian computer expert Jon Lech Johansen has cracked iTunes’ digital rights management system “wide open.” Johansen, known for cracking the encryption code meant to protect DVDs, apparently has written a program that captures iTunes files as they are playing and allows them to be copied and played on Linux systems.

Meanwhile, RealNetworks today announced that it is launching its own 99-cent song download store to augment its Rhapsody subscription service. The download store will be integrated into the new version of Real's digital media player (Real Player 10) and will reportedly allow the transfer of downloaded files to a variety of portable devices, including the iPod.

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