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Apple enters MP3 player market

Apple believes that its new iPod solves many of the problems holding back portable MP3 players' entry into the mainstream.

Apple believes that it may have brought portable MP3 music players well and truly into the mainstream with its latest new product, the iPod. This sleek, silvery device represents a bold attempt to deal with the usabilty, technology and power issues that have so far stopped MP3 players becoming mass market products.

First of all, Apple has tried to make the iPod as easy to use as possible with a liquid crystal display, simple user interface and scroll-wheel controller. Where Apple really seems to have made a difference, however, is in the area of inter-operability between the MP3 player and your computer.

For starters, the system uses a FireWire connection to hook the iPod to the Macintosh (PCs are not supported at this stage.) This super-quick data transfer technology allows a full CD album to be transferred to the iPod’s hard drive in under 10 seconds, about 30 times faster than today’s USB-based players. A total of around 1000 songs can be stored on the iPod’s 5GB hard drive.

The iPod can play for around 10 hours on a single battery charge — still not perfect — but better than the three hours you get on current players. The battery also recharges automatically when you connect the iPod to a desktop Mac.

Another bonus is the Auto-Sync feature, which you can tell to automatically synchronise your iPod’s contents with those of your Mac. The 5GB hard drive can also double as a portable storage device for other types of data such as presentations and graphics. Apple is trying to do all of the above in a sleek, 6.5 ounce silver device that’s slightly larger than a cigarette packet.

“With iPod, Apple has invented a whole new category of digital music player that lets you put your entire music collection in your pocket and listen to it wherever you go,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “With iPod, listening to music will never be the same again.”

The iPod costs US $399 and requires you to have iTunes 2 on your Mac. A PC-compatible version of the iPod is scheduled for next Summer.

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