Apple, the consumer electronics giant, has unveiled new versions of its popular iPod music player, but failed to deliver the surprises that finicky investors have come to expect from CEO Steve Jobs.
The new iPod line presented by Jobs in San Francisco at a press event on Tuesday included a new fourth generation Nano video player. He also slashed the price of the year-old iPod Touch.
But investors signalled their thumbs down as they saw no sweeping changes in products and pricing by Apple. Consequently, the company's shares fell three percent at the end of Jobs speech.
Apple has sold more than 184 million iPods since their 2001 debut. But sales of the iPod, which once accounted for nearly half of Apple's annual revenue, had flattened out by last Christmas.
Now, in a case of cannibalisation, iPhone, the new apple of the company's eye, which comes with its own built-in MP3 player, is threatening to make the iPod obsolete.
The new Nano is thinner than previous models and slightly curved. The display screen changes orientation from horizontal to vertical depending on how you hold the device. iPod Nano incorporates Apple's Genius technology that automatically creates playlists from songs in the music library. An 8-GB model costs $150, the same price as the original 1-GB model marketed two years ago.
Jobs also unveiled cheaper models of its Touch music player, a touchscreen-only device. An 8-GB version now costs $229, down from $299. The 16GB version will sell for $299 and the 32GB model for $399, down from $499.
The new iPod touch is designed to provide up to 36 hours of music playback or six hours of video playback on a single charge, under standard conditions.
Jobs said: "iPod touch is the funnest iPod we've ever created. Users can listen to millions of songs, watch thousands of Hollywood movies and now, thanks to the App Store, download and play hundreds of great games on their iPod touch."
In a related development, Apple announced the launch of iTunes 8, a free-download music and video player for Macs and PCs which is integrated with the online content collection, iTunes Store.
The event began interestingly with Jobs, referring to an inadvertent release of his obituary by a business news agency, had a message flash on a screen behind him: "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Speculation about Jobs' health has not died down since he appeared gaunt at a recent Apple event. Apple has since said Jobs, 53, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, suffered from a bug and is better. He appeared thin but energetic at the Tuesday event.
Meanwhile, software major Microsoft, struggling to consolidate market share with its Zune digital music player, has revamped the Zune line with a new software that enables users to discover new music and more capacity to store it. The new Zune player was released on Monday.