Apple's sleek new-design iPod is lighter, thinner and more feature-packed than the company's already market-leading MP3 player.
Available in capacities of 10GB (£249), 15GB (£299) and a gargantuan 30GB (£399), the third-generation weighs less and is thinner than two CDs (61-x-104-x-15.8mm, 158 grams). The 30GB model is slightly larger - 176 grams, 61-x-104-x-18.5mm. iPod now offers support for both Mac and Windows out-of-the box.
The FireWire port is now mounted on the bottom of the iPod, which features a completely solid-state navigation wheel and buttons. The two highest-capacity models ship with a new dock with audio out for seamless connection to Mac (or PC) or stereo.
Controls have been enhanced: the solid-state touch wheel (introduced in the second-generation) remains, with the addition of new single-touch Play, Pause, Fast Forward, Rewind. The buttons are backlit, but have been ergonomically designed for one-handed operation.
The new models also feature an "On-The-Go" playlist that lets iPod owners build playlists (and rate tracks) directly on their MP3 player. The menu is customizable too, users can put the features they most use on their top level menu. Auto-Sync is built-in, though Apple has innovated there too - iPod switches from that mode to music-player mode faster than before. The iPod offers over eight hours of continuous music and recharges automatically whenever iPod is in the dock or connected to a Mac or a WIndows PC.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs was exultant in his presentation: "The competition hasn't even caught up with our first generation iPod, and we're introducing our third generation."
The new generation supports the Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) as well as MP3. AAC offers higher quality sound in the same disk space. Users will find three games - Breakout (as before) as well as Solitaire and Parachute. They also have an Alarm Clock and built-in text note support.
Apple's third generation music player ships on May 9, Jobs promised in his presentation. Laser engraving is also available for £14.99. The new iPod will support high-speed syncing over USB 2.0 with Windows PCs starting in June when a free software download will be released. A separate USB 2.0 cable will be released in June.
All models ship with headphones, a power adaptor and FireWire cable. The two high-capacity models ship with the iPod Dock, which is available as an optional £29 extra with the 10GB iPod. These models also ship with a carrying case (£29) and wired remote (£29), which are available as extras for the 10GB one.
For Mac users, iPods need a FireWire port, Mac OS X 10.1.5. For Windows, a FireWire or USB 2.0 port or card, and a recent Windows OS are required. The product ships with a CD containing iTunes for OS X and MusicMatch Jukebox Plus 7.5.