Culture

This week in portable gadgets

Apple unveils its long-rumored video iPod and an updated version of iTunes, while EchoStar debuts its own portable video player.

No time for "Lost" last night? Just download it and watch it during your commute. That's what Apple Computer hopes you will do with the unveiling of its long-rumored video iPod and an updated version of iTunes that lets users buy music videos, TV shows and movies.

The music players, which come in black or white with a 2.5-inch screen, will be available in a 30GB model for $299 and a 60GB version for $399. The new devices hold up to 15,000 songs, 25,000 photos or more than 150 hours of video.

With the new version of iTunes, unveiled five weeks after the debut of iTunes 5, consumers can buy non-burnable music videos for $1.99. In addition to music videos, consumers will be able to purchase TV shows one day after their initial broadcast. It will take 10 to 20 minutes to download an episode. Each will cost $1.99 and will be ad-free.

Apple also announced a new iMac G5 desktop computer that will be similar to the current model but thinner. The 17-inch 1.9GHz goes for $1,299; the 20-inch 2.1GHz model is $1,699. The iMacs will come with a built-in, Webcam-style iSight camera with still and video capabilities, and a new Apple remote that lets consumers control music, photos and video from 30 feet away.

The release of Apple's new iTunes store for videos provides a look at a business model likely to unsettle the movie, television, advertising and retail markets for years to come.

With this first step into the video sales market, Apple is taking a path similar to the one followed by its initial iTunes music store, which started with a relatively small number of titles that were accessible only to Macintosh computer users. But it was an effective way to persuade a formerly reluctant music industry to allow broader online distribution.

Apple's deal with Disney appears to include a similar foot-in-the-door strategy, starting with a small amount of content to which it will add much more in the near future. It does go beyond anything else online, however, offering consumers the ability to download a purchased ve rsion of several shows the day after they air, along with back episodes.

EchoStar Communications is also getting into the portable video player market. PocketDish can download, record and play content from a PC or Mac, digital cameras, mass-storage devices, as well as from sources such as digital video players, camcorders and video cassette recorders, the company said. It is compatible with most television sets and consumer electronic devices currently available.

In addition, customers of EchoStar's Dish Network can dock PocketDish to select DVRs, using a USB 2.0 connection for fast video transfers. An hour of Dish programming can be transferred to the portable device in about five minutes, the company said.