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Dell puts $100 bounty on iPods

Company hopes rebate plan will overcome brand loyalty and pain of switching technology.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
3 min read
Dell wants your old iPod and is willing to pay to get it.

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker on Wednesday unveiled an offer that grants music player customers a $100 rebate on a 15GB Digital Jukebox when they send it an Apple Computer iPod music player to be recycled.

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The rebate, available only on the 15GB Dell Digital Jukebox, is designed to woo would-be repeat iPod buyers and also to raise the profile of the Dell DJ versus the iPod. Apple's iPod, now in its third year, is the leading portable music player.

"We want to help drive further awareness of the products we have available and?the plusses we have to offer," said Dell spokesman Jess Blackburn. Thus the iPod offer "is a way to call out what separates us from the understood leader in this particular market."

An Apple representative declined to comment on the Dell promotion.

Dell claims that lower price and longer-lasting batteries are two things that distinguish the Digital Jukebox from the iPod.

Apple's 15GB iPod costs $299, while the 15GB Dell DJ lists at $199. Although it's not covered by the rebate offer, Dell also sells a 20GB Dell DJ for $279. Apple's 20GB iPod costs $399.

Dell's 15GB unit can run up to 20 continuous hours, according to Dell's Web site, while Apple promises eight hours for its 15GB iPod. Dell says its 15GB and 20GB players can hold more than 7,000 and 9,000 songs, respectively, while Apple says its 15GB and 20GB iPods can hold 3,700 and 5,000 songs.

Although it's making an aggressive bid for iPod owners' business, Dell will probably have a hard time winning them over en masse. Apple still offers more variety, including a higher-capacity 40GB iPod and the smaller iPod Mini. Many iPod owners are likely to have downloaded a large number of songs from the iTunes service, or uploaded their CD collections to their iPods. It would take, at the least, a fair amount of time and effort to duplicate their iPod setups on a new Dell unit.

"I think it's unlikely that iPod users are going to give up their old iPods," said Tim Deal, analyst at Technology Business Research, despite Dell's "innovative and aggressive marketing strategy."

There are more reasons, Deal said. The iPod "is not just about the hardware, it's about the entire experience. Apple still offers the best integrated experience, from using the iTunes music store and application to the (iPod) hardware. It's easy to use," Deal said. Deal said he has tried both the iPod and players based on Microsoft software, such as the DJ.

Those willing to take Dell up on its offer must first purchase the 15GB Digital Jukebox, download and complete a form for the $100 mail-in rebate, then send it and the old iPod to Dell.

Dell is also offering extras, including free shipping and 25 free downloads from its Digital Jukebox music service, offered through MusicMatch. The trade-in rebate offer will run for a limited time, although Dell has not yet set an end date for it, Blackburn said.