A Windows-compatible version of Apple's popular iPod digital music player will be available in late August, Apple chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Jobs announced Wednesday in his opening keynote at the Macworld conference in New York.
Introduced in October, the critically lauded iPod, in conjunction with Apple's iTunes music software, won Apple a Grammy award this year for technical achievement. ITunes will remain Mac-only software; the Windows version of iPod will run software from Musicmatch.
The new Windows iPod is part of an expansion of the product line. Apple cut prices by around £90 on existing models, bringing the cost of its 5GB iPod to £259 (inc VAT) and the cost of the 10GB model to £329. Apple also unveiled a 20GB iPod, which will retail for £399, and added a pair of iPod accessories to its portfolio -- a carrying case and a remote control. The new accessories and the 20GB iPod will be available in early August, Jobs said.
While iPod is aimed squarely at the consumer market, another centerpiece of Jobs' keynote is intended to appeal to corporate users: iSync, software that will enable data synchronization between Palm OS devices, Bluetooth-enabled GPRS (General Packet Radio Services ) mobile phones, Apple's iPod, and calendaring and address book software.
ISync is part of Apple's "digital hub" philosophy of making PCs control centers for its customers' lives, Jobs said. Mobile phones are "the most popular devices in the world," and will be an integral part of Apple's digital hub, he said.
ISync will be available in September as a free download. It requires "Jaguar," Apple's name for its forthcoming Mac OS X 10.2 upgrade. Jobs devoted much of his keynote to extolling Jaguar's virtues. The upgrade offers 150 new features, including a revamped address book, an enhanced Finder with integrated search tools and "spring-loaded folders" that pop open when hovered over with the mouse. Jaguar will go on sale August 24 for £99, Jobs said.
ISync will also be included in ".Mac," a new subscription service Apple is launching to replace iTools, a collection of services and applications previously available free. ITools will be discontinued September 30.
Formerly free offerings such as Yahoo's email and Microsoft's Hotmail are beginning to carry a price tag, and Apple has to reflect the industry's new landscape, Jobs said. .Mac will cost $100 per year, though current iTools subscribers will be offered a first-year subscription for $50. The service's features will include email, storage, antivirus protection, backup tools and Web site hosting.
Microsoft's .Net strategy was an influence on .Mac's creation and name, Jobs acknowledged.
"They're talking about Internet services, and we thought, 'Let's jump in this boat'. And we're actually delivering stuff,'" he said.
Jobs packed an array of software and hardware product announcements into his two-hour keynote. Apple's QuickTime 6 MPEG-4 video software, released Monday, has already been downloaded 1 million times, Jobs said. Tuesday, Apple released version 3 of its iTunes software. Jobs also highlighted Apple's forthcoming Rendezvous software, which will automatically detect Internet-connected devices on a local network. Printer makers including Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark will be integrating Rendezvous into future devices, Jobs said, allowing instant plug-&-play installation of networked printers.
On the hardware side, Apple debuted a new high-end iMac with a 17-inch screen. The company also cut iMac prices by £100 throughout the product line, reversing an earlier price hike. The new iMac will include an 800MHz PowerPC G4 processor, a SuperDrive for playing and burning CDs and DVDs, and an 80GB hard drive, and go on sale in August for £1,699 (inc VAT).
Jobs wrapped up his keynote with a passionate defense of PCs, devices many analyst say are becoming commodities.
"Other companies are laying off thousands of people, and there is certainly cause for despair if you believe the personal computer is something to do spreadsheets and word processing on," Jobs said. "Personal computers are undergoing a rapid evolution to be at the center of our digital lives, and we have never been more excited about this stuff. We are going to invest and innovate our way through this downturn."