Apple's iPod continues to collect column inches here in the UK, with the Times, Observer and others noting the level of demand for the market-leading music player.

In a piece titled: "iPod is favourite stocking thriller as Internet shopping finally booms," The Observer notes: "The iPod… has become a cult consumer gift that has achieved a unique festive status over the past few days: it is the fastest-selling item being snapped-up by Internet shoppers."

The article offers comment from James Roper, CEO of the UK's electronic trade body IMRG: "Of all the items being purchased this Christmas the iPod is by far the most popular. Its sales are absolutely amazing."

Research data from the body shows that the iPod was the most-frequently searched for item (on Internet shopping search engine Kelkoo) in the first week of December.

Roper said: "The searches Kelkoo records are a good indicator of what online shoppers are interested in at Christmas."

The popularity of Apple's music player comes as consumers move en masse to purchase product online. Analysts note a fourfold increase in business in comparison to Christmas 2002. This reflects increased broadband adoption across the UK, they say.

The mass popularity of this Apple product has already begun to experience backlash. Writing for The Times Online professor Gideon Garter notes: "I am afraid the sight of people with personal stereos plugged into their head depresses me terribly. They strike me as individuals who are not sufficiently mentally dextrous to pass occasional silent moments in the contemplation of higher things," he thunders in his argument against catering for ever-shorter attention spans.

Even the national Welsh Web site, icWales, is getting in on the iPod act, writing: "Anyone who wakes on Christmas morning, pushes their hand down into a stocking and clutches an iPod will break into the type of smile Adam and Eve might have brandished when eating their first pineapple." It concludes: "Anyone in step with the zeitgeist will be clutching an iPod in 2004."

Demand vs supply

Apple's phenomenal success in making its product synonymous with the MP3 players among consumers has its price: "Apple's digital music player is in short supply in many markets, including the US and UK", reports the Financial Times.

This report notes that most New York stores are our of stock, warning of Apple's history of "designing blockbuster products but being unable to meet customer demand".

Apple has confirmed the huge demand surrounding the product. Apple UK general manager Mark Rogers told Macworld UK last week: "The iPod is definitely on everyone's Christmas wish list, given the huge demand we have seen," and confirmed the company to be "extremely pleased" with sales of the product.

"We are working hard to fulfill that demand as quickly as we can," he said.

Apple's UK online store still notes a build time of 1-2 days for the product, though many in its UK sales channel have reported that the product is in short supply.

Apple will report its Q1 2004 earnings on January 14. These results will reveal just how successful its iPod sales have been, as the figures will include the current shopping period.