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This week in iPod news

Apple is the undisputed champion of the hard-drive music market, but competitors are gearing up for a shot at the title.

Apple Computer is the undisputed champion of the hard-drive music market, but competitors are gearing up for a shot at the title.

The various versions of the iPod account for 92.1 percent of the market for hard-drive-based music players, up from 82.2 percent a year ago. And Apple is profiting from that dominance, as fourth-quarter revenue from iPods more than quadrupled to $537 million, accounting for 23 percent of Apple's total revenue.

Those numbers are music to the ears of competitors, which have introduced a barrage of products, in roughly the same price range, to tackle the market-leading iPod.

Dell is challenging iPod as part of a plan to expand its brand name in the consumer electronics market. The PC maker this week launched a diminutive version of its Dell Digital Jukebox portable music player, dubbed the Pocket DJ 5, along with an updated Dell DJ 20 music player, a portable photo printer and a line of plasma-screen televisions.

The Pocket DJ 5, which will sell for $199 and offer 5GB of storage, will compete with Apple's 4GB iPod Mini, which sells for $249. The updated 20GB Dell DJ will sell for $249, a drop of $30 from the price of Dell's existing 20GB model.

Virgin Electronics also made its play this week with the $249 Virgin Player, a digital audio player with a 5GB hard disk. The device supports MP3 and WMA music formats and is capable of working with various digital music services. The 3.1-ounce device comes bundled with the company's music software and service, Virgin Digital, which sells song downloads for 99 cents each. Or customers can choose a monthly subscription for $7.99.

Even upstart Archos, a maker of portable devices, is joining the attack, unveiling its own tiny player that costs $250 and has a 20GB hard drive. The Gmini XS200 is comparable in size and price to the iPod Mini but has five times the storage capacity. The Gmini supports MP3, WMA and WAV audio files, and it stores up to 5,000 songs.