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Apple takes iPod to 30GB

Adds recharge/sync dock and USB 2.0 support, as predicted

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Apple introduced a new, slimmer generation of its iPod personal music player, as predicted.

The new design sports a touchpad-based "solid-state" scroll wheel and four backlit control buttons: track skip/rewind, Menu, play/pause and track skip/fast forward.

The updated iPod is available not only with 15GB and 30GB hard drives, as expected, but there's an entry-level model with a 10GB hard drive. Until the launch today, it had been assumed that Apple would continue to offer the 10GB second-generation iPod. US prices are $299 (10GB), $399 (15GB) and $499 (30GB).

Only the top two models ship with the new recharging/sync cradle, however, along with a belt-worn carry case. The dock connects to a new, non-standard port on the bottom of the iPod. In turn, it connects to a host PC or Mac via 1394 or USB 2.0. It also offers audio-out ports to make it easier to connect the iPod to a hi-fi. Apple will release the USB 2.0 Windows driver in June as a free download, but Windows users will have to cough up $19 extra for a USB 2.0 cable - Apple only ships a dock connector-to-1394 lead in the box.

Connecting the iPod to the host computer automatically initiates an iTunes, iCal and Address Book synchronisation in Mac OS X; or just a music synchronisation with iPod. Actually, we thought you could do this already, so what, we wonder, is all the fuss about?

All three models contain enhanced software that not only supports the AAC audio format Apple is basing its online Music Store on, but allows users to create new playlists on their iPod. Taking a leaf out of the mobile phone biz, the new iPods feature extra games - Parachute and the perennial Windows favourite, Solitaire - plus an alarm clock and text viewing facilities. ®

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