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Apple Intros iPod Photo, iPod U2, and Euro iTMS

Apple today fulfilled the wish of every Internet discussion-forum geek who’s longed for the capability to view photos on a tiny color screen. The new iPod Photo incorporates a color screen into the existing iPod form factor, enabling you to view digital photos in addition to listen to music. The 220 by 176-pixel screen can display up to 65,536 colors. Like iPhoto, you can view screenfulls of thumbnails (25 images at a time), or single photos by themselves, using the iPod’s scroll wheel and middle button. It can also display album art for songs as you listen to them. The device comes in two configurations: a 40 GB model for $500 and a 60 GB model for $600.

In a bit of a conceptual disconnect, photos and photo albums are synchronized using the Auto-Sync capabilities of iTunes 4.7, which was released today as a free 10.5 MB download. (iTunes was probably chosen as the conduit because iPhoto doesn’t exist under Windows; it can also pick up photos from Windows applications Adobe Photoshop Album 2.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, or from a designated photos folder on either operating system.) If the iPod’s screen is too small for your taste, an included AV cable connects the iPod Photo to a television for slideshow playback. An iPod Photo Dock, included with both models, adds what looks to be an S-video connector (though it’s not specifically named in the specifications).

Apple claims that battery life is improved on the new model, with up to 15 hours of continuous music or 5 hours of continuous slideshows with music. The online Apple Store reports shipping estimates of 1-2 weeks.

In other iPod news, Apple announced the iPod U2 Special Edition model. In addition to engraved signatures of the members of the band U2, the front face is black instead of white, with a red scroll wheel; it’s available only in a 20 GB configuration. It also includes a $50 gift certificate that can be applied to "The Complete U2", a digital boxed-set of the band’s music containing 400 songs and 25 unreleased tracks. An included exclusive U2 poster will no doubt seal the deal for some fans. The iPod U2 Special Edition will be available in mid-November for $350.

Finally, Apple also announced today that it has launched a European version of the iTunes Music Store. Previously available in the U.S., France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, the EU iTunes Music Store now also supports Portugal, Spain, Luxembourg, Italy, Greece, Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Finland, all with songs priced at €0.99 apiece. Apple also says it plans to launch its iTunes Music Store in Canada during November.

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