Apple introduces $99 iPod, $499 Mac

San Francisco (CA) - Steve Jobs used his traditional opening day keynote at MacWorldExpo to unveil a range of new products. Rumors preceing the conference turned out to be true : The company extends its iPod family with a Flash-based version. Apple also showed a new entry level Mac.

Even Bill Gates admitted in a recent interview that Apple’s iPod has been a hit. And Apple intends to build on the success of the device which is estimated by analysts to exceed sales of 22.5 million units next year. In his keynote opening MacWorldExpo today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced a new entry-level iPod, called the "iPod Shuffle".

As rumors suggested in the past weeks, the device uses Flash memory instead of a harddrive to store songs, but resembles the design approach of the iPod family. At a size of a bubble gum package, the device has a sleek white casing that integrates a scroll wheel to navigate through content. Apple nixed a LCD to save cost and drive the drive below $100 for a 512 MByte version of the iPod Shuffle. The company also offers a 1 GByte version of the player.

An innovative feature of the Shuffle is a USB connector which is exposed by removing a cap from the bottom of the device. The connector lets the device act like a common USB Flash stick and serves as transfer interface from a Mac or PC. According to Apple the Shuffle’s battery will provide a music playing time of about 12 hours.

Apple also announced an expected entry-level computer below the iMac. The new Mac mini is built into box 6.5 inches wide and two inches tall. The computer is priced from about $500 and weighs 2.9 pounds excluding a screen, keyboard and mouse.

The Mac mini is available with a 1.25 GHz or 1.42 GHz G4 processor, a 40 GByte or a 80 GByte harddrive a CD-R/DVD-ROM combo-drive , 256 MByte RAM and a ATI Radeon 9200 chip with 32 MByte RAM. Interfaces include Ethernet, Modem, USB, Firewire and a headphone connect.

While the price range is not revolutionary from a PC perspective, Apple maintained a simple but stylish design and claims that the components work "whisper-quiet".

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