October 29, 2004 3:30 PM PDT

This week in iPod news

With all the splash and glitz of a Hollywood premiere, Apple Computer this week introduced the latest version of its popular iPod music player.

Apple's chief executive, Steve Jobs, had a few notable friends to help with the introduction--members of rock band U2.

The company added color to the latest iPods, as well as the capability to display digital photos on the gadget's screen or via a TV set.

The new iPods come with the capacity of holding 40GB and will sell for $499, or a larger 60GB version that is expected to retail for $599.

Where does U2 fit into all of this? Apple unveiled a special-edition U2-themed iPod. The black device features a red navigation dial and comes with a $50 coupon that can be used toward buying "The Complete U2" music collection from Apple's online music store, iTunes. The special-edition iPod features 20GB and will sell for $349.

The iPod Photo has begun shipping to stores and will be available soon, while the U2 iPod is due in mid-November.

Meanwhile, Gateway joined the band of computer makers selling hard-drive-based digital audio players, but its riff adds miniaturization and a color screen for displaying photos. The $249.99 Gateway MP3 Photo Jukebox player has a 4GB capacity, a 1.6-inch display and a rechargeable (and replaceable) battery.

And Sony has released the first of its digital audio players to support the popular MP3 format, marking a significant shift in its music strategy. As expected, the company announced the release in Europe of two flash memory-based devices, the Walkman NW-E99 and NW-E95, which can natively play songs in MP3 and Sony's own Atrac file format.

Sony has historically been a leader in the portable-device market, thanks to its Walkman line of tape players. But the company missed the boat with digital audio players, insisting that device owners convert MP3s to the proprietary Sony format.

Also on the media front, RealNetworks and Apple both issued security fixes for their Windows-based media players. RealNetworks issued a patch for its RealPlayer 10, RealPlayer 10.5 and RealOne Player software. The vulnerability could allow an attacker to run code on the victim's computer by presenting it as a graphics theme, or skin, for the player. Apple, meanwhile, released QuickTime 6.5.2 to plug two holes in its Windows-based Media Player.

 

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