Apple announces smallest iPod yet

12 Jan 2005

A new miniature Macintosh that can be carried in the palm of a hand and a new iPod smaller than a typical pack of chewing gum were the highlights Apple CEO Steve Job’s address to the faithful at Macworld 2005 in San Francisco yesterday.

Other key announcements included a new version of iLife, Apple’s digital lifestyle suite, and the launch of iWork, the beginnings of a successor to Appleworks, the company’s office productivity package.

Aimed at giving potential switchers no excuse for abandoning the Wintel platform, the Mac Mini starts at only €519 but is BYOKMD. “Bring your own keyboard mouse and display,” joked Jobs.

Weighing only 1.3kg, the Mac Mini has a footprint of 16.5cm on each side and is only 5.1cm high and accepts user standard peripherals including USB keyboards and mice and analogue and digital displays. The Mac Mini will be available in two versions: one using a 1.25MHz G4 processor and a 40GB hard drive and the other based on a 1.4 GHz G4 processor and 80GB hard drive. Both come with 256MB of Ram a 56Kbps modem and a combo DVD-Rom/CD-RW drive.

The iPod has been Apple’s biggest success story. In the five years since its launch, 10 million units have shipped, 8.2 million of them during the calendar year 2004. And in the past 12 months the iPod market share has more than doubled from 31pc to 65pc, at the expense of flash-based drives. Much of this is thanks to the launch of the iPod Mini which was targeted at the high end of the flash market.

“Now, we’re going after the rest of the flash market,” Jobs announced, revealing the fourth and smallest member of the iPod family, the iPod Shuffle (pictured). The philosophy behind the new device is that since the flash player would be unable to carry an entire music library, the key is shuffling, hence the name. The iPod Shuffle plugs directly into a PC or Mac USB2 port similar to a flash memory drive – and indeed the iPod Shuffle can be used as a storage device – and integrates with iTunes, which can automatically select songs at random or according to user-defined criteria from the users music library. The user interface is very simple. Two units are available: a 512MB model at €99 including Vat and a 1GB model for €149. According to Jobs, the iPod Shuffle is shipping immediately, however, Liam Donohoe of Apple Ireland predicted it would be a few weeks before Irish consumers would see them in the shops.

iLife ’05 is an update to the company’s digital lifestyle suite. All of the components – iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and Garage Band – have been refreshed (iTunes is constantly upgraded separately). The latest version of iPhoto, for instance, now supports the Raw picture format found in many high-end digital cameras and offers improved editing capability. Apple has also cut the price of ordering prints through the software. iMovie now supports HD Video and offers a feature known as Magic iMove that automatically imports raw footage from a digital camcorder, adds titles, transitions and music all-in-one step. Garage Band now supports real-time musical notation recording and eight-track recording. The entire package will be available on 22 January for €79 including Vat and will be bundled free with all new iMacs.

Two years ago, Jobs used the same occasion to launch Keynote, a new presentation package. This year, he announced Keynote 2 with new themes, a presenter display option and integration with iLife. Together with Pages, this makes up iWork 05. Apple has frequently been criticised for failing to upgrade Appleworks to run natively under OS X. It now seems the strategy is to replace the ageing package with a completely new suite. Pages offers powerful word processing and design capability using tools very similar to those found in Keynote.

Reaction to the Keynote was favourable. Both Josephine Conaghan of 3G and Derek Gleeson of O2 Retail described it as “fantastic.” “The new entry-level products really fill a gap in the market,” said Conaghan who was confident her chain would be carrying the new products. Gleeson also looked forward to making the iPod Shuffle available through the O2 Experience stores. “They are going to sell like hotcakes,” he said.

By David Stewart