iPod screens go all-color

Apple switches to color screens for all its standard iPods and updates iTunes to let people more easily download podcasts. Photo: iPod adds color

Apple Computer has switched to color screens for all its standard iPods and has updated its iTunes software to let people more easily download podcasts.

The move, which combines Apple's iPod and iPod Photo lines, means that black-and-white screens are now found only on iPod Minis, company said Tuesday.

The new 60GB iPod can store 25,000 digital photos or 15,000 songs, while the new 20GB version can hold 20,000 photos or 5,000 songs. The company released a new 20GB iPod U2 Special Edition with a color screen as well.

"We think this continues to add heat to our lineup," said Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPod product marketing. Joswiak declined to comment on reports that the iPod inventory had begun to swell ahead of Tuesday's announcement, saying that the company is in a quiet period ahead of its earnings report next month.

The new 20GB iPod sells for $299; the 60GB version is priced at $399. The U2 iPod costs $329, which is $20 less than a prior model that had a black-and-white screen. Apple also announced a price cut from $149 to $129 on the 1GB iPod Shuffle, which has no screen.

The new iPods, as well as the iPods and iPod Minis already in consumers' hands, can also take advantage of new podcasting features that Apple added to its iTunes software on Tuesday. Apple CEO Steve Jobs had announced earlier this year plans to let iTunes support the creation and distribution of podcasts.

Apple added on Tuesday direct access to about 3,000 podcasts from within the iTunes Music Store, including newly developed podcasts from ABC News, ESPN and Disney.

"We're very excited about bringing so many free podcasts to our iTunes and iPod customers," said Eddie Cue, vice president of applications for Apple.

The company would not comment on whether it may eventually charge for some content.

"Today is all about free podcasts," Joswiak said. The two Apple executives also declined to comment on reports that Apple is nearly ready to announce an iTunes-compatible cell phone being developed with Motorola.

Apple said a link in the main podcast page within the iTunes Music Store will allow any podcaster to submit a broadcast to the directory. Apple will make sure that the podcast is live and active before adding it to the directory, the company said.

There will be an option for the podcaster to mark a podcast as explicit and there is also a "report concern" button that customers can use to report problematic content.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said the move to add color will help Apple keep pace as competitors look to add similar features.

"We see the changes in both iPod and iPod Shuffle pricing and features as proactive steps by Apple to continue to gain market share," Munster said in a research note. "The lower pricing on the iPod shuffle will allow Apple to continue to dominate the flash-based device market, and we do not expect margins will be significantly impacted, due to declining flash memory pricing."

CNET News.com's Dinesh Sharma contributed to this report.

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