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Apple Unveils Evolved iPod Selection

San Francisco – Price reductions of as much as $100 on select iPod touch portables, a doubling of storage capacities for the iPod nano, new cosmetics, and new features were among the highlights of the new iPods unveiled today by Apple.

With the introductions, said NPD analyst Ross Rubin, Apple “evolved” its line and “should be well-positioned for this holiday season.” Said James McQuivey, principal analysts for Forrester Research, “All the things they announced were things that needed to happen, and we expected it.”

The introductions, McQuivey continued, will entice second- and third-time MP3-player purchasers to buy a new model but won’t do anything to bring new households into an MP3 market whose growth is slowing.

Apple didn’t use its press conference here to launch a music-download subscription service or introduce a new iPod Shuffle, but the company did announce HD downloads of TV episodes to the PC, joining HD movie downloads. Apple also announced the return of NBC programming to the iTunes Store.

The new iPod touch, which is smaller and lighter than its predecessor, is available today at $229 for the new 8GB version, down from $299; $299 for the 16GB version, down from $399; and $399 for the 32GB version, down from $499. The price reductions put the 8GB and 16GB versions closer to the price of the carrier-subsidized iPhone, which is available at $199 for the 8GB version and $299 for the 16GB version. To reduce touch pricing any further would have threatened to eat into nano sales, McQuivey said.

Besides lower prices, the new iPod touches get a “Genius” feature that automatically generates playlists of songs related to particular songs in the player’s library, a hard volume-control button, external speaker for causal listening, and a curved design. It continues to offer 3.5-inch widescreen touchscreen with motion user interface, WiFi to browse the Web and download music wirelessly from the iTunes store, and an accelerometer to display content in horizontal or landscape mode depending on which way the touch is turned.

The iPod nano got the biggest changes, with a larger portrait display at 2.2 inches, a taller-and-narrower shape compared to its wider and shorter predecessor, and a built-in accelerometer, which delivers two new features. First, when the nano is rotated horizontally, it automatically goes into Cover Flow mode to display cover art. The accelerometer also puts the nano into shuffle mode when shaken.

The nano, said to be the thinnest iPod ever, also features the Genius playlist capability, new curved aluminum-and-glass enclosure, and eight new colors. It’s available in two capacities: 8GB at $149 and 16GB for $199, compared to $149 for its predecessor’s 4GB version and $199 for the previous 8GB version. Also new: voice recording when a microphone is connected.

Apple pared down its hard-drive-equipped iPod Classic line to one SKU, a 120GB version at $249. The Classic was previously available at $249 for an 80GB version and $349 for a 160GB version.

Apple also unveiled new headphone options, including a $29 model with microphone and basic controls such as volume up/down and track up/down. A step-up $79 headphone features two-way drivers.