Apple Computer Inc. unveiled a portable music player on Tuesday that can hold up to 1,000 songs in digital form, the first device launched outside the company's Macintosh computer line in eight years.
At an event in Cupertino, Calif., Apple introduced the "iPod," an MP3 music player with 5 gigabytes of storage and a battery life of 10 hours that it had kept a closely guarded secret through development until last week.
The iPod will be available in stores on Nov. 10 at a suggested price of $399 (U.S.), Apple said.
Even at that price, one analyst said the iPod would still carry a healthy margin for Apple, which warned on Oct. 17 that earnings in the current quarter would be only about half of what Wall Street analysts had expected.
"I think Apple is making as much on one of these as on a $1000 notebook," said Chris Le Tocq, an analyst with SageCircle Inc. "I certainly think this is going to take [Apple's]message to a wider audience."
Apple's chief executive officer Steve Jobs has staked the future of the company's personal computer line to creating a hub for an emerging "digital lifestyle," allowing users to listen to music and edit and watch video more easily. The iPod marked an extension of that strategy, he said.
"To have your whole music library with you at all times, it's a quantum leap in listening to music," he said. "This is going to be the hottest gift this holiday season for every Mac owner."
Apple said it would be possible to download an entire CD onto the 6.5-ounce iPod in less than 10 seconds.
The device connects to Apple's line of Macintosh computers using the FireWire connection standard, which transfers data at 400 kilopbits per second, 30 times faster than standard USB connections.
The iPod interfaces with Apple's iTunes music player software, automatically updating its internal playlist to match the user's iTunes playlist every time the device is connected to the computer.
The newest version of the software, iTunes 2, was also released on Tuesday. New features in version 2 include the ability to create MP3 music files from an audio CD and an on-screen equalizer.
Apple's last major non-Macintosh hardware was the Newton, a personal digital assistant it launched in 1993 and later discontinued.
Mr. Jobs did not say how many of the devices Apple would ship this season other than to say "probably not enough" to meet demand. He did say that 7 million existing Macintoshes have the necessary hardware and software to be compatible with iPod.
For the immediate future iPod is expected to be an Apple-only device. In its existing forms it is not compatible with PCs that run the Windows operating system.
"We have thought that when we have a little bit of spare time we will looking into taking it to Windows," he said, adding jokingly that he thought "the experience probably won't be as good."