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This week in iPod news

Apple Computer shuffles in new iPod Mini and iPod Photo players. But one aspect of the release has some iPod fans furious.

Apple Computer has shuffled in new iPod Mini and iPod Photo players and dropped prices on some models. But one aspect of the release has some iPod fans furious.

The company introduced a higher-capacity, 6GB Mini, along with new 30GB and 60GB iPod Photo models, which can use an adapter to connect directly to digital cameras and display photos.

The new models expand the range of Apple's popular hard drive-based music players and increase the product line's capabilities in digital photography. A $29 camera adapter for the iPod Photo answers the call for connecting the player directly to cameras without the need for a computer as a go-between.

The 30GB iPod Photo costs $349, while the 60GB device costs $449. Previously, Apple offered a 40GB model for $499 and a 60GB version for $599.

However, with the latest crop of iPods, Apple is no longer including a FireWire cable in the box. The music players will still work with FireWire, if a cord is purchased separately, but only a USB 2.0 cable comes with the device. The move is part of a gradual shift on Apple's part to standardize the iPod on USB, which is far more common in the Windows world.

The other issue is cost. With the latest round of products, Apple cut its prices. By omitting the FireWire cord, the company can gain back some of the lost profit margins.

Nonetheless, some Mac owners were rankled by the move, saying that as recently as a year or two ago many Macs didn't include a USB 2.0 port. More than 1,300 people have signed an online petition calling on Apple to again include a FireWire cable with iPods.

Others are no doubt glad simply to be able to connect their portable music player with a digital camera, without using a computer as a go-between.

The big question is how quickly the masses will want such features--and whether they'll pay more for a music player that has a photo side to it. The fact that people can connect an iPod to a digital camera and then connect the iPod to a printer doesn't necessarily mean that they'll want to.

A look under the hood of the flash-based iPod Shuffle shows that Apple is making music with two chips.

IDC analyst IdaRose Sylvester recently dissected a 512MB iPod Shuffle, purchased at retail, in order to determine what the tiny music player is made of. Her report, published earlier this month, reveals that Apple used two main chips spread over two separate circuit boards to foster the compact design of the music player, which was introduced in January. But despite the Shuffle's tiny size, Apple still left room for a relatively high profit margin.