Apple’s new online music service is likely to attract most of the attention today, but in typical Apple fashion, it’s the hardware that makes it all possible. Noting that over 700,000 iPods have shipped since the device was introduced in October of 2001, Steve Jobs introduced three new iPod configurations featuring a dramatic redesign from previous versions.
The iPod line now comprises a 10 GB model for $300, a 15 GB model for $400, and a 30 GB model for $500. The iPod has also undergone a significant redesign. Measuring 0.62 inches (1.57 cm) deep, the 10 GB and 15 GB iPods are lighter (at 5.6 ounces, or 158 grams) and thinner than two CDs, according to Jobs (I assume he’s including the typical CD jewel case in his comparison); the 30 GB model is slightly thicker, measuring 0.73 inches (1.85 cm) and weighing 6.2 ounces (176 grams). The scroll wheel of earlier models is still there, but the control buttons have moved into a line at the top of the wheel, rather than being spaced in a circle. And, perhaps taking a cue from the 17-inch PowerBook, the buttons’ text is illuminated when you turn the screen’s backlighting on.
The iPod connectors have changed significantly. Instead of a standard FireWire port, the iPods feature a connector on the bottom that plugs into an iPod dock for charging and synchronizing with iTunes. The dock also includes a line out port for hooking up to stereo systems or powered speakers. Rounding out the included accessories, the iPod comes with earbud headphones, a FireWire connection cable, an AC adapter, and a 4-pin to 6-pin FireWire adapter (for connecting to some Windows systems). The two more-expensive models also come with a carrying case, a wired remote, and the iPod dock.
Apple eliminated the separate Mac and Windows configurations – the new iPod can be used on either platform. Along with a free software update scheduled for June of 2003, PC users will need a special dock connector cable (sold separately for $20 starting in June) that enables USB 2.0 as well as FireWire access.
The latest iPod software adds AAC format playback, the capability to customize which options are available in the interface (such as hiding options for features you don’t use, like the calendar), and On-the-Go Playlists that enable you to build playlists on the iPod itself. It also includes the games Solitaire and Parachute, a notes reader for reading text-based information, and an alarm clock that can play either an alarm sound or music that you choose. However, many of these new features may to be specific to the new iPod models; the latest iPod software, version 1.3 made available today via Software Update, adds only the AAC playback to my original 5 GB unit.
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