SAN FRANCISCO - Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a revamped line of iPods on Tuesday and trumpeted a truce with NBC Universal that means the TV network will begin selling programs again on iTunes.
The iPod announcements were largely expected, and investors were less than energized, sending Apple’s shares down $6.24, or 4 percent, to close at $151.68.
The iPod upgrades Jobs revealed Tuesday in a theater in San Francisco include two slick new Nano models, oval-shaped devices that Jobs said are the thinnest iPods Apple has ever made. They are less than a quarter-inch thick.
The new models acknowledge the incredible appetite for iPods — Jobs said Apple has sold 160 million iPods since their introduction in 2001, making them the runaway leader among portable music players. But Apple has to work hard to differentiate them from the iPhone, Apple’s cell phone/iPod/Internet device that threatens to cannibalize some of the demand for iPods.
Jobs also showed off three new versions of the iPod Touch, which is much like an iPhone except that it doesn’t make calls.
An 8-gigabyte version of the new model will sell for $229; a 16-gigabyte Touch will be $299 and a 32 GB model will be $399.
Apple hopes the 32-gigabyte unit will appeal to people who download a lot of games and other programs, and wouldn’t be able to store them all on an iPhone, which tops out at 16 gigabytes. Jobs said people have downloaded a “mind-blowing” 100 million applications for iPhones and iPod Touch devices since Apple began offering the programs online two months ago.
“We don’t think of it as cannibalization,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of product marketing. “As long as they want an Apple product, we’re happy.”
But Ross Rubin, an analyst with market researcher NPD Group, said Apple’s focus on the Nano and its new features indicates otherwise.
Among the new twists: A “shake to shuffle” feature that lets people mix up their iPod playlists by giving the device a hard, abrupt shake.
Jobs also showed off a new “genius” feature in iTunes and the iPod’s onboard software. If a user clicks the genius button while listening to a song, the program automatically creates a new playlist of similar songs from the user’s own library. The software determines similarity in part by analyzing which songs other people have together in their libraries.