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HP agrees to be Apple DRM dealer

Inks OEM deal for iPod, iTunes

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CES Apple found a friend in the Wintel world on Thursday, as HP announced it will start selling a version of the iPod MP3 player.

At this time, HP is only saying that its HP-branded player will arrive sometime in the U.S. summer and be priced inline with current music devices. HP also plans to to pre-install Apple's iTunes music playing software on all of its consumer notebooks and PCs. With this deal, HP has partially turned its back on partner Microsoft, as Redmond and Apple disagree over the DRM (digital rights management) technology that should be used to infect music files.

Earlier this week, Apple unveiled a new, lower cost version of the iPod. The system will start at $249 with 4GB of memory, come in a smaller package and be available in five different colors.

HP did not immediately make it clear as to what type of iPod the company will roll out. It could choose to sell an entire line of large and small capacity systems. HP's CEO Carly Fiorina is set to speak at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later today and should provide more details on the news.

The link to HP is a big coup for Apple, which has become the leading player in the locked music business. So far, the company has sold 30 million infected songs via iTunes. Now, it will have one of the world's largest consumer PC sellers on its side as well.

HP, a big Microsoft Media Center PC backer, is playing both sides of the field with move. The company will givers users DRM in any form they desire. Or don't desire, for that matter.

Starting this summer, HP will, however, go so far as to add the iTunes software right on the Media Center systems, its Pavilion products and Compaq Presario kit. ®

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