Apple unveils thinnest iPods, new NBC deal — but shares sink
Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a revamped line of iPods today and trumpeted a truce with NBC Universal that means the TV network...
The Associated Press
SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a revamped line of iPods today and trumpeted a truce with NBC Universal that means the TV network will begin selling programs again on iTunes.
The iPod announcements were largely expected, and investors were less than energized, sending Apple's shares down $6.24, or 4 percent, to close at $151.68.
The iPod upgrades Jobs revealed today in a theater in San Francisco include two slick new Nano models, oval-shaped devices that Jobs said are the thinnest iPods Apple has ever made. A $149 version comes with 8 gigabytes of memory (enough for 2,000 songs); a 16-gigabyte version (which holds 4,000 songs) is $199.
The new models acknowledge the incredible appetite for iPods — Jobs said Apple has sold 160 million iPods since their introduction in 2001. But Apple has to work hard to differentiate them from the iPhone, Apple's cell phone/iPod/Internet device that threatens to cannibalize some of the demand for iPods.
Jobs also showed off three new versions of the iPod Touch, which is much like an iPhone except that doesn't make calls. An 8-gigabyte version of the new model will sell for $229; a 16-gigabyte Touch will be $299 and a 32 GB model will be $399.
Apple hopes the 32-gigabyte unit will appeal to people who download a lot of games and other programs, and wouldn't be able to store them all on an iPhone, which maxes out at 16 gigabytes. Jobs said people have downloaded a "mind-blowing" 100 million applications for iPhones and iPod Touch devices since Apple began offering the programs online two months ago.
In the deal with NBC, the television network is coming back to iTunes, a year after pulling out in a dispute over the prices Apple charges for shows it sells on the online service. At that time, programming controlled by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, made up an estimated 40 percent of the video downloads on iTunes.
At the height of the spat, Apple said NBC had sought more than double the wholesale prices for its shows, which would have resulted in shows selling for $4.99 each. NBC disputed that, and said it wanted only to be able to sell programs at different prices.
But with its muscle in the market for digital downloads, Apple appears to have won the battle. NBC's programming will sell for the same prices as other TV shows available on iTunes. High-definition shows, a new addition for iTunes, will sell for $2.99 each. Shows in standard definition cost $1.99. Some older shows are available for 99 cents apiece.
Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal's CEO, said in a statement that the partnership with Apple is "terrific news for everyone who loves television and the ease and convenience of Apple's iTunes."
Appearing thin but energetic, Jobs kicked off the event by flashing a message on a screen behind him: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Jobs borrowed that line from Mark Twain in reference to obituary preparedness on Jobs that was accidentally posted by Bloomberg News and then retracted. News outlets regularly prepare obituary material on famous people.
Questions about Jobs' health swirled after he appeared gaunt at a recent Apple event. Apple has since said Jobs, 53, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, suffered from a bug and is better.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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