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Apple to 'add iPod Dock' to Mac Mini

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Apple's abortive attempt to integrate an iPod Dock into the Mac Mini may yet come to fruition as the company prepares to enter the media centre arena using the diminutive computer.

Claims that the Mini design originally included a Dock were made this past March after electronics specialist Leo Bodnar took his Mini to bits and spotted unused bus connections on the riser card that connects the optical drive to the motherboard. The card appeared to contain a Firewire link that wasn't needed by the ATA-100 optical drive and didn't connect to anything else. With the riser card reaching up to the top of the Mini's casing, Bodnar speculated that the Mac was originally conceived as sporting an integrated Dock.

Now, Apple-watching website ThinkSecret reckons it's going to happen. Its sources claim an Intel-based Mac Mini, codenamed 'Kaleidoscope' and due to be announced at Macworld Expo next month, will sport such a Dock along with version 2.0 of Apple's Media Center Edition-like Front Row shell and PVR functionality.

The sources don't comment on whether the latter feature means the machine will include a TV tuner card, or simply provide a video-in connector to hook up a set-top box. Certainly, a TV tuner has been one of the most requested features for a second-generation Mac Mini. The use of Front Row also suggests the incorporation of an infra-red port to link the computer to the iPod Shuffle-like remote control device Apple debuted recently with its latest iMacs.

It has to be said, such a system would be the ideal companion for a video iPod, providing a way of getting recorded content onto the new media player. However, longer term, Apple must be hoping users will prefer to download TV episodes and movies from the iTunes Music Store. As the technology matures that will allow broadcasters to determine in advance the extent to which consumers can record and retain programmes, the ITMS model will become more important. ®

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