Apple's tune resonates at CES

Apple's big trade show kicks off Tuesday, but signs of the Mac maker's influence were omnipresent last week.

Apple Computer's big trade show kicks off Tuesday in San Francisco, but signs of the Mac maker's influence were omnipresent at last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

There were plenty of new video services to rival iTunes and new MP3 players looking to dethrone the iPod.

Photos: Apple at CES

Well-known and little-known accessory makers alike were sporting new iPod add-ons. Belkin was showing off its latest gear, while Speck Products used the trade show to display its first electric accessories, including cables, car chargers and FM transmitters. Numerous newcomers were looking to get in on the iPod act as well.

And when Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates demonstrated Windows Vista, the operating system's new Photo Gallery feature bore a great resemblance to Apple's iPhoto.

But of course the big event in the Apple world is this week's Macworld Expo in San Francisco, and Mac fans everywhere are eagerly awaiting the product or products that CEO Steve Jobs will announce Tuesday. The most persistent speculation has centered on Intel-based Macs, while other common rumors have addressed new iPods or an expansion of the video service within iTunes.

There has been little solid evidence of new products to come, though a slip-up on Apple's Web site did strongly suggest that an update to the iLife suite of consumer software is forthcoming, as is something dubbed iWeb, which some enthusiast sites surmise could be a Web content creation program.

Apple also suggested that changes to its .Mac Internet subscription service could be coming. The hint came via a note that the service will be down during the time of Jobs' keynote.

".Mac will be undergoing scheduled maintenance from 7:00 AM to 12:00 PM PST on 1/10/06," Apple said on the .Mac page of its Web site. "All .Mac services will be affected. We apologize for the inconvenience."

The juiciest rumor landed over the weekend on the Jason O'Grady's Powerpage. The Mac enthusiast site says Apple is poised to launch a line of high-definition plasma televisions. According to Powerpage, Apple will launch both a 42- and 50-inch display, both of which will have a built-in Mac and a 12-button remote with an LCD display.

There have also been reports that Apple's iPod Shuffle, which has been out of stock in many places, will be replaced, either with a lower capacity iPod Nano or with a smaller version of the Shuffle.

There was one bit of Apple news announced ahead of the show. Chrysler said Sunday that it will include iPod integration as an option on most of its 2006 models.

"We're thrilled that over 3 million Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge automobiles will offer great iPod connectivity in 2006," Apple Vice President Greg Joswiak said in a statement. "Over 40 percent of all cars sold in the U.S. in 2006 will offer iPod connectivity."

Chrysler's iPod kit will cost $175, the companies said, and can also work with some 2005 models.

For those keeping track, Jobs used the Macworld Expo keynote last year to introduce the first Mac Mini, the iPod shuffle and iWork, its bundle of productivity software. Some expect Apple to add a spreadsheet program to iWork that could be called Numbers, given Apple's .

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