This week in Apple news

Apple Computer introduced a slew of new machines as it gears up for the annual holiday-shopping season.

Apple Computer introduced a slew of new machines as it gears up for the annual holiday-shopping season.

As part of the launch, the company cut the price of its entry-level iBook G4 notebook computer and boosted chip speed across the line.

The new low-end iBook features a 1.2 GHz G4 chip, a combination drive that can play DVDs and burn CDs, and a 12-inch screen. It sells for $999--that's $100 less than the prior low-end model. A midrange model features a 1.33GHz chip, a combo drive and a 14-inch screen, for $1,299. The top-of-the-line iBook sells for $1,499 and has the so-called SuperDrive, a drive that can burn both DVDs and CDs.

Apple has also added faster 802.11g wireless networking to all its iBook models, and Bluetooth is now an option on them as well.

Apple has scheduled a special event for next week, fueling speculation that the company could be ready to introduce an updated model of its iPod digital music player. In an invitation to the event, Apple said only that "Steve Jobs, Bono and The Edge invite you to a special event." Bono and The Edge are members of U2, whose song "Vertigo" is featured in an Apple commercial. The track is also the top-selling song at Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Among the sources of speculation was a report from Macintosh rumor site ThinkSecret that Apple would introduce a "U2-edition" iPod, which would come preloaded with the band's catalog, potentially linked with exclusive online access to U2's upcoming new album through the iTunes store.

Plugging that iPod into your car is getting much easier. Electronics companies demonstrated new products at a conference this week that offer better ways to link Apple's audio player to a vehicle's stereo, replacing the problematic and low-quality methods of radio transmitters and cassette adapters.

The $190 Ipod2car adapter is a box the size of a cigarette pack that lets almost any car stereo control an iPod, with the controls for changing tracks on CDs now able to skip through playlists. The company's Ipod2car adapter also charges an iPod, which would typically be mounted on a dashboard.

Texas Instruments, meanwhile, demonstrated what's essentially a tiny custom PC--complete with hard drive--that can rip CDs inserted into the dashboard and control an iPod linked through a USB port.