Apple Computer on Tuesday unveiled a color screen version of its popular iPod music player, in addition to a special-edition version in partnership with rock band U2.
The color model can also be used to display photos, either on its own screen or on a TV set. It comes in two capacities: a 40GB model for $499 and a 60GB version for $599. The screen is capable of displaying 65,536 colors.
"Photos are a lot like music," iPod unit head Jon Rubinstein said in an interview. "Everybody loves them, and you've got a lot of your own content. It's just kind of a natural (pairing)."
The U2-themed iPod holds 20GB, is black with a red navigation dial on the face and includes a facsimile of the band members' signatures on the back. For $349, or $50 more than the cost of the regular 20GB iPod, the buyer receives a $50 coupon that can be used toward purchasing "The Complete U2" music collection, priced at $149, from Apple's iTunes store.
Apple also announced that, starting today, its iTunes Music Store will be available in more countries--namely Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Jobs also said Apple would add a Canadian store next month.
The iPod Photo is available now, while the U2 iPod is due in mid-November, Apple said. The company showed off both versions of the iPod at a press conference here.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs acknowledged that the Mac maker continues to buck conventional wisdom, not having added video capabilities along with the photo playback. In order to keep the iPod small, Apple needed to keep to a small screen size--one that doesn't work for watching a movie, Jobs and Rubinstein maintain.
"No one has any video content to put on them, and even if they did, the screens are much too small," Jobs said, adding that the iPod is the "wrong place" for video.
"Looking at photos on here is a reasonable thing to do," Rubinstein added, holding up one of the new gadgets. "Watching a video makes no sense."
On the Mac, the iPod Photo syncs with iPhoto software. For PC users, the iPod can grab photos either from the My Photos folder or from Adobe Systems' Photoshop Album or Photoshop Elements software. There are no plans for a Windows version of iPhoto, said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing.
Matt Sargent, an analyst at market research firm Current Analysis, said the iPod Photo makes it easier for people to move their digital photos around. But, he said, "the question is, is that something Middle America wants to do?"
The iPod Photo is also pricey. Still, Sargent said, "Apple has always managed to take that concern and blow it away."
In addition to the new iPods, Apple also introduced a set of colored "socks" for carrying iPods. Apple will sell a set of six differently hued socks for $29.
Before showing off the new iPods, Jobs noted that Apple will open its London retail store on Nov. 20 and also predicted strong iMac sales this quarter.
"We think this is going to be a very good Christmas for the iMac," Jobs said.