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New iPods make some add-ons yesterday's hits

Video iPod, Nano render a slew of existing accessories incompatible with the newest products. Will sales of the players suffer?

William Weems had never owned an iPod, but when he saw Apple Computer's new video-playing version he decided to buy one from Apple's Web site. To complement the player, the Georgia Web designer also bought a pair of Logitech wireless headphones.

Unfortunately, not all of the headphones' features work with the video iPod. That's because Apple's latest player, unlike previous iPod generations, doesn't have a small connector near the headphone jack. With both the latest iPod and the recently introduced Nano, Apple has done away with the top connector, rendering a whole slew of existing iPod accessories incompatible with the newest players.

It remains unclear what impact this might have on sales of the new players. Weems debated sending back the video-capable iPod and getting an older model. He says he is leaning toward keeping the new model, but thinks many other consumers may decide to stick with the older model rather than have to buy new add-ons.


What's new:
The video iPod and the iPod Nano render a slew of existing iPod accessories incompatible.

Bottom line:
The lack of a small connector near the headphone jack on the latest iPods could cause some potential buyers to delay purchasing the device because they have to buy new versions of their favorite add-ons.

More stories on iPod accessories

"A lot of people out there I know have a lot of accessories that they purchased over time," Weems said.

Accessories designed for the dock connector slot at the iPod's bottom work just fine with the Nano. But a bunch of other add-ons, including some of the earliest accessories such as the Belkin voice recorder and Apple's own iPod remote control, don't work with the new players.

Apple representatives have declined to say why they decided not to include the top port on the new iPods. In any case, the move has sent many accessory makers to rush back to their drawing boards.

Griffin Technology, for example, had a number of add-ons that connected via the top port, including its AirClick remote control, iTrip car transmitter and iTalk microphone. The company has already announced an updated AirClick that connects via the dock connector as well as new iTrips that work with the Nano and video iPods.

Logitech said that its headphones do transmit sound wirelessly from the Nano and video iPod using an included adapter, but said that built-in controls on the headphones for pausing, fast forwarding and other functions won't work because of the design change. A Logitech representative said the company already has products in the pipeline that work more elegantly with the new iPods.

"We will bring out a line that will complement all of the new iPods," the representative said.

Apple has even had to replace some of its own accessories, quietly coming out last week with a new remote control for the iPod. The $29 remote is actually the same one that ships with the new iMac and it can be used to control both the iPod and the Front Row media features on the new iMac.

iPod add-ons

But the key question--whether some potential buyers of the new iPod will put off buying the device knowing they may have to buy new versions of their favorite add-ons--is a big one considering the hundreds of millions of dollars iPod owners have plunked down for all manner of add-ons. But one analyst said he doesn't expect the iPod faithful to shun the new video model just because it doesn't work with their accessories.

Current Analysis analyst Sam Bhavnani said that the new 30GB iPod costs the same as its predecessor and is thinner despite the video abilities and having 50 percent more storage. "The benefits of what they are offering far outweighs the negative of potentially having to buy a new iTrip," he said.

In part to address compatibility concerns, Apple has guaranteed accessory makers that design for the dock connector port that their products will work with future iPods as part of the company's "Made for iPod" program. The computer maker has further pledged that accessory makers can design a universal well for accessories like speakers and that Apple will include any necessary plastic adaptor.

"If they want to design one device that connects with many different size and shape iPods," Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller told CNET earlier this month, "we'll take responsibility to make sure there is a standard dock connector that comes with the iPod."

Apple also is seeking a royalty for such products as part of that program, with one source pegging the fee at 10 percent of a device's wholesale price. Schiller declined to comment on the business terms of the program.

Bhavnani said that the Made for iPod program could pave the way for better communication between Apple and the key accessory makers.

"Apple may be more up front with them then they have in the past about the road maps," he said. "Instead of letting them know right around the launch, maybe they will give them a little more lead time."