As the Christmas shopping rush draws closer the MP3-player market is hotting up.

In this week alone, Samsung has debuted its iPod-challenging 8GB phone and SanDisk has taken the wraps off its 8GB nano-challenger. What of Apple?

As rumours abound that Apple may be preparing a iPod launch in mid September, many analysts are convinced that the company has something on the boil.

"I'm convinced they aren't just sitting there," said Gartner analyst Michael McGuire responding to reports that Apple may have hit a barrier with new no new significant iPod updates in time for Christmas.

No match

However, some analysts are not expecting Apple to match the impact of its iPod launches at this time last year. IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said that Apple may have missed an opportunity to follow up on its successes of last year, which included the iPod nano and video iPod.

"Apple had so much momentum coming out of 2005," she said. "That was momentum they could have banked on by introducing new products in the first half of 2006."

Kevorkian also speculated that Apple may be in interested in HD radio. "HD Radio is a technology that could make a lot of sense in the context of iPod," she said.

"It's possible that we're at a point where the path to taking the next step is less clear and less straightforward, even for a company with the technology expertise and creativity of Apple."

Digital radio

One of the issues with adding digital radio capabilities to the iPod is that digital radio works differently in the US to the way it does in the UK and Europe. It is likely that it would require different mechanics in the different territories.

The BBC did reveal recently that it was working on a digital radio receiver that would work with iPods, however.