San Francisco: Apple chief executive Steve Jobs on Tuesday unveiled new iPod models and iTunes stores upgrades for the coming holiday season as he brushed aside reports about his health.
Jobs kicked off a theatrical press event in downtown San Francisco by poking fun at persistent rumors about his health.
He flashed a famous Mark Twain quote, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” on the screen as he stepped onstage.
“Enough said; the real topic of today is music,” Jobs began.
The iconic Apple pitchman’s medical condition has been the subject of considerable debate since he appeared gaunt at a conference in June.
New products announced by Jobs include high-definition television shows available on Apple’s online iTunes store and a slim new iPod Nano model that upgrades the technology while returning the gum stick shape people preferred.
Jobs also showed off an upgraded iPod Touch model made slimmer than the original version and with a built-in speaker.
The iPod lineup combines feature upgrades with price cuts of as much as 100 dollars on higher end models.
IPod Touch models with 32 gigabytes of memory are priced at $399 while a 16-gigabyte version will sell for $299 and an eight-gigabyte Touch for $229.
Jobs cited statistics showing iPods command nearly 74% of the MP3 market and said that more than a hundred million applications for iPhones and iPod Touch models have been downloaded since the “App Store” opened 60 days ago.
He also addressed concerns about iPhone 3G performance problems by saying a free iPhone 2.1 update will be released on Friday to fix the troubles.
Apple’s ceaseless modifying of iPod models also makes them a moving target for competitors such as Microsoft, which has a fourth-place 2.5% of the MP3 market with its Zune devices.
Technology and beyond
Apple incorporated motion-sensing “accelerometer” technology from its iPhones and iPod Touch models into the new Nano, which adjusts screens to how the devices are held and lets people shuffle music with “a shake.”
“You just take your iPod, shake it and it’s shuffled,” Jobs said, flicking his wrist to demonstrate and his Nano jumping to a Dean Martin song.
Analysts were unfazed by the fact Apple stock price slipped despite the strong iPod line-up, dropping nearly four percent to $151.68 per share in afterhours trading.
“They’ve fairly staked out the segment of the market; introduced some new features to keep making a mature product fresh and interesting,” said NPD analyst Ross Rubin.
Along with being the thinnest iPod that Apple has ever made, the new Nano is made with toxin-free components and is primarily recyclable aluminum and glass, Jobs said, addressing concerns by critics of Apple’s environmental record.
Jobs touted iPod Touch as the best portable device for listening to music or watching videos.
The motion-sensing feature of iPod Touch allows the device itself to be used as a controller with tilting or twisting movements.
Apple reports selling more than 160 million iPods since the first model was introduced in late 2001. The iTunes store has become the top music seller in the United States.
Proof of Apple’s clout is seen in NBC Universal’s return on Tuesday to the iTunes fold. NBC had reportedly pulled its television shows from iTunes in a bid to pressure Apple to charge more for programs.