Apple today unveiled the iPod, a stainless steel, 6.5 ounce portable music player. Thanks to a slim 5 GB hard drive, the $400 device measures only 2.4 inches wide, 4 inches tall, and less than an inch thick. The drive is capable of storing roughly 1,000 MP3-formatted songs (or more, if the files are ripped at lower compression rates), which are transferred to the device over a FireWire connection. Apple claims that the bandwidth provided by FireWire can transfer a CD's worth of music in 10 seconds, while one's entire MP3 collection would take between five and 10 minutes. With its 32 MB memory cache, the device also boasts 20 minutes of skip protection. The iPod runs on a built-in lithium polymer battery that is capable of 10 hours of continuous playback, and which can be recharged to 80 percent capacity in about an hour, and to full strength in three hours. Since it uses FireWire, the pod charges when connected to your Mac; it can also store other data like an ordinary hard disk when the iPod is put into FireWire disk mode.
The iPod isn't the first hard disk-based MP3 player on the market (see "Archos Jukebox 6000 Challenges Nomad Jukebox" in TidBITS 592), but it's arguably the best looking and offers support for multiple languages (currently English, French, German, and Japanese). Adhering to Apple's minimal design aesthetic, the iPod comprises a backlit monochrome LCD and a large circular area containing four buttons (play/pause, forward, reverse, and menu), a scroll wheel that turns clockwise or counter-clockwise, and a central button for selecting whichever item is highlighted on screen. The iPod also includes an AC adapter that connects via FireWire cable (also included) and a set of earbud headphones. Apple is now taking pre-orders for the iPod, which will be available 10-Nov-01.
In conjunction with the iPod, Apple announced iTunes 2, also available in early November as a free download for Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. When the iPod is connected to the Mac for the first time, iTunes can transfer your entire music library; subsequent connections can automatically synchronize the music and playlists on the device and on the Mac. In addition, iTunes 2 finally incorporates a 10-band equalizer with 22 presets, features a crossfader for smoothing transitions between songs, and burns MP3 CDs. Since iTunes 2 and the iPod were designed to work together, the iPod will only work with a FireWire-capable Macintosh.