Dropping the iPod mini in favour of Apple’s all-new iPod nano was like: “having a heart transplant right before the holiday”, said Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

With the iPod mini being Apple’s biggest-selling iPod, the move put the company’s leading digital-music cash cow at risk: “Anyone would think we were crazy,” Jobs admitted.

“We launched the iPod nano two weeks ago rather than at the Apple Expo because in the run-up to Christmas every week counts. The launch had been planned for over a year,” he confirmed.

Jobs on Bluetooth, radio iPods

Jobs also confronted demands from some quarters that Apple should deliver a Bluetooth- or radio-enabled iPod.

While many see adding a radio to an iPod as a useful extra feature, Apple’s feedback is less vociferous than the noise generated by the company’s critics, Jobs confirmed.

“We don’t get a lot of customers asking for it”, he said.

Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller pointed out that iPods now offer radio on demand: “Thanks to podcasting you can listen to radio shows whenever you want to,” he said.

Jobs also warned of the challenge of offering extra features just for the sake of it, saying: “We are very careful about what features we add because we can’t take them away.”

The Bluetooth equation remains unsolved, it seems.

Calling it a “technology in search of a problem”, Jobs said: “The easiest way to get music onto an iPod nano is to dock it (connect it directly to a computer),” he said.

It’s about file sizes and the limited speed of Bluetooth technology.

“Frankly music is very big,” he said. “We tend to forget how big it is,” he added.

“With Bluetooth, songs take a while to download. And if you have Bluetooth headphones you have to charge them as well as the iPod. People don’t want to do that. Also, the sound isn’t good enough,” he claimed.

Apple needs to keep its secrets secret

Apple has a reputation across all sections of the media of being almost Stalinist in its secrecy.

Its actions late last year of launching lawsuits against several prominent Mac rumour websites shows the seriousness with which it protects its secrets.

Jobs explained the company’s motivation on not discussing future products:

“Microsoft is copying our operating system,” he said, adding, “Dell is copying our hardware.”

“They just have to follow our tail lights,” he smiled.

Jobs also responded to a question which asked why Apple doesn’t make iChat for Windows systems.

Taking a gentle jibe at Microsoft, he said: “Microsoft has to earn a living too”.