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Apple unveils cutting-edge upgrades rather than new technology

The iPod Nano now has a built-in video camera, an FM radio with live pause mode, and a pedometer. The iPod Touch gets more storage space for less, and iTunes has several new features for music lovers.

September 10, 2009|David Colker

An upgraded iPod Nano -- with video camera, FM radio and other niceties -- in a slimmer, flashier package is the highlight of Apple's new product lineup.But the fact that it's an upgrade is telling -- Apple Inc. revealed no brand-new products at Wednesday's long-awaited unveiling. The rumored tablet-style computer that's supposedly in the works was not mentioned.

"We didn't see anything bleeding edge or real 'out of the blue,' " said Gartner Inc. analyst Mike McGuire. "We saw logical extensions."

Still, the product "extensions" showed off Apple's trademark innovation, which has in many instances captured the public's imagination, even at premium prices.

And speaking of prices, they're going down on some products as the Cupertino, Calif., company strives to head off competition in the portable music field.

Here's a look at the changes in the Apple lineup:

* iPod Nano -- The diminutive Nano that debuted in 2005 as a flash-memory, discount version of the iPod has become a monster in the marketplace to the point of being the world's best-selling portable player. At the event, Chief Executive Steve Jobs said that more than 100 million Nanos have been sold.

The most dramatic addition to the new Nano, which went on sale online right after the Wednesday morning announcement, is the built-in video camera that can record action in portrait or landscape orientation. A built-in microphone captures the sound.

The video clips it takes can be downloaded to a Mac or PC, from where it can be e-mailed to family and friends or uploaded to popular social networking and video sharing websites such as Facebook and YouTube. (If the new Nano is a hit, expect a flood of new vacation, pet tricks and dorm-antics videos to hit these Web services.)

The new Nano also marks the first time that Apple has embedded an FM radio in its iPod. And in TiVo-like fashion, the radio will have a live pause mode to allow listeners to halt listening and then resume at the same spot later.

The player also has a bigger screen, a thinner profile and a pedometer to count steps.

The new iPod Nano is priced at $149 for the 8 gigabyte storage size and $179 for the 16GB (that's $20 less than the previous 16GB Nano).

* iPod Touch -- The big news about the Web-browsing, game-playing Touch, which essentially has all the features of an iPhone except the phone, is a reduction in price.

The 8GB model now goes for $199, the 32GB version is $299 and the 64GB model is $399.

This puts the iPod Touch in a better position to head off Microsoft Corp.'s new Zune HD player, which is set to debut Tuesday. The Zune HD 16GB will be $219; its 32GB model will be $289.

Hardware-wise, the main enhancement to the iPod Touch is faster processing for the 32GB and 64GB models.

Also, video game makers announced that several new titles would be coming to the platform, including Madden NFL 10.

* iTunes -- The online store and audio/video organizer is getting several new features for music lovers.

In a retro move hearkening back to the album era, the new iTunes offers more information, photos and graphics. And it provides video features on some artists. The new iTunes also allows for the sharing of music among as many as five computers on a home network. And it allows organization of iPhone apps in the same handy format as music.

Not part of the announcements -- the Beatles. Music by the Fab Four is still not available on the iTunes store. It seems the long and winding road to getting that deal done has a ways to go.

There also was no mention of a music subscription service for iTunes to let customers access a near-unlimited selection of songs for a monthly fee. These types of services have sprung up elsewhere, but Jobs has said that he's not in favor of them -- and it seems that he hasn't changed his mind.


Dan Fost in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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