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More iPods From Apple, As Well As A $499 Mac

Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs unveiled at Macworld last week a flash-memory-based iPod line along with the $500 Mac Mini desktop computer.

The iPod shuffle, available immediately, comes in 512MB and 1GB size capacities with respective street prices of $99 and $149. The shuffle is a bit bigger than a standard USB memory drive and based on the iTunes shuffle and new autofill software. While shuffle randomly plays songs from the user’s song list, autofill automatically picks the exact number of songs necessary to fill the player. The shuffle can be manually shifted to play the songs in the order recorded. They will work with either the Mac or Windows OS.

The 1GB version will hold 240 songs, and both models can be used as a standard USB storage device for transferring files. The device is recharged when attached to a computer’s USB port or with an optional USB power adapter that plugs into a wall outlet. Finally, there is an external battery pack holding two AA batteries that will extend play time up to 12 hours.

Apple is also offering iPod integration in Mercedes-Benz USA, Volvo, Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari car stereo systems this year.

The iPod integration kit for Mercedes-Benz will debut this April in the United States with the newly redesigned 2006 Mercedes-Benz M-Class, and two iPod connectivity options will be offered for the entire Volvo 2005 U.S. model line, announced Apple here at Macworld. Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari will announce details of their iPod integration solutions later this year. The integration solutions allow an iPod to play through the car’s stereo system and be controlled through the car’s standard radio controls. These companies join BMW and MINI Cooper, which began offering integrated iPod solutions in 2004.

Apple said Mercedes-Benz will also offer iPod integration with almost all of its 2005 and 2006 car models later this year. Mercedes-Benz will be the first auto maker to allow users to search artist, album or playlist information with the steering wheel controls and through the radio/instrument cluster display, said Apple. The iPod kit will be available at a list price of $299 plus installation from authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers.

The Volvo iPod adapter will be available for S60, S80 and V70/XC70 models and will connect by simply plugging the iPod into a cable located in the car’s glove compartment, while S40, V50 and XC90 owners can use a dashboard-mounted FM transmitter. The Volvo iPod adapter allows users to control their music through their Volvo sound system and steering wheel controls, and both options charge the iPod when plugged in.

Additional details on model availability, features and pricing will be provided by Nissan, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari at the time of availability, said Apple.

On the computer side, the Mac Mini is a small desktop that resembles and external hard drive storage unit. It will be available in two basic configurations starting on Jan. 22. Shared features include its 3-pound weight, Mac OS X, two USB and one 1394 port, CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive and ATI Radeon 9200 graphics card. Customers can purchase Minis with a 1.25GHz or 1.42GHz G4 processor, 60GB or 80GB hard drives, and 256MB of DDR SDRAM, expandable to 1GB.

The mini does not come with a keyboard or monitor.

In software Apple introduced the productivity suite iWorks ’05. The software features Apple’s Keynote 2 presentation and Pages word processing applications. iWorks imports Appleworks, and it imports and exports Microsoft Word and PowerPoint files.

It will ship on Jan. 22 with a $79 price tag.