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At posh hotels, iPod a high-tech mint on the pillow

Apple's digital music player becomes the latest amenity at swank hotels, and ups its status as a pop-culture icon. Photo: Preloaded iPod in your next hotel room?

Music lovers checking into fine hotels may want to ask the front desk about the latest trend in upscale amenities: in-room iPods.

Dream, a new Manhattan four-star, is one of the latest boutique hotels to offer guests the use of Apple's popular music gadget during their stay. The iPods come preloaded with as many as 2,000 songs and are available for each of the Dream's 200 rooms, said Dream spokesman Andy Patrizia.

The music players, available from the concierge, come with a special cable that plugs into the Bose speakers in each room, he said. The rooms also feature 37-inch plasma televisions, digital cable and 300-count Egyptian cotton sheets. The luxuries don't come cheap of course. The Dream's rates range from $275 to $575 a night. A 20GB iPod costs $299.

Out West, The Crescent in Beverly Hills features an iPod Music Minibar in each room. The 40-room hotel, which has a lounge-bar theme, introduced the gadgets, and installed speakers, last year. The devices there also come preloaded with music, with a focus on jazz, lounge and electronica.

As an antitheft measure, The Crescent encased all its iPod Minis in Lucite and anchored them to desks in each room, said front desk manager Paula Arancel. The Dream discourages theft of the coveted gadgets by making guests sign a contract agreeing to return them or have their credit cards billed.

The Crescent contracted with a Denver company called Gray V to install the iPods and program music onto them. Gray V, which specializes in digital music services for restaurants and retail shops, has also outfitted six suites at the Sky Hotel in Aspen, Colo., with iPod Minis and has a few more hotel deals in the queue, Gray V head Lori Hon said.

"Music has become much more a part of the hotel experience," Hon said. "We're focused on how to get the (music) content out there."

Some luxury resorts overseas are also tapping into the iPod craze, according to a recent USA Today report. Guests using the exercise room at Le Meridien Cyberport in Hong Kong can borrow the devices, while Las Ventanas al Paraiso resort in Los Cabos, Mexico, lends them out at the pool. And guests staying at the oceanfront villas at the One&Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas can request that the resort program in-room iPods with their favorite songs.

Others took the trend as yet another sign of how popular iPods have become. "When luxury hotels are offering their guests loaner iPods, and will pay a staff member to fill it up with your favorite tunes, you definitely have a phenomenon on your hands," said Web logger