Apple set to unveil widescreen iPods

Apple shares rose more than 5% amid growing expectation that the company will announce a revamped line of iPods next week.

Apple set to unveil widescreen iPods

There’s intense speculation that Apple could launch a new video iPod with a large touch screen similar to the iPhone, and a redesigned iPod nano in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Others suggest that Apple is finally set to sell albums from the Beatles through its iTunes music store, bringing to an end the last and biggest of the digital music hold-outs.

Apple has distributed invitations to a September 5 launch event, but did not say what it would be about.

“The product announcement is likely to include a full line-up of revamped iPods with significantly greater functionality at current price points, including the much-anticipated full-screen video iPod,” Goldman Sachs claims in a note, urging investors to buy Apple shares.

Goldman says September 5 will bring “the almost certain launch of a new family of iPods” ahead of the holiday season, which accounts for the biggest chunk of sales for that part of Apple’s business.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says there’s a 70% chance that Apple will launch widescreen, multi-touch iPods. His note also speculates on a Beatles deal next week.

“In light of the fact that the tag line of Apple’s special event invitation was ‘The beat goes on,’ the final words of the Beatles last press release, we expect Apple to announce the availability of the Beatles music library on iTunes,” Munster writes.

Apple last refreshed the iPod almost a year ago when it boosted the storage of its highest-capacity model to 80 gigabytes, introduced a thinner iPod nano and a smaller Shuffle

In June, the widow of former Beatle George Harrison said fans would probably have to wait until early 2008 before they could buy Beatles music online.

Nokia threat

An overhaul of the iPod line would come as the company faces new efforts by rivals to erode the dominance of its iTunes online music store.

Nokia has recently unveiled its own online music store and new top-end handsets, and in August MTV combined its online music store Urge with a music subscription service from RealNetworks. Universal is also testing the sale of songs without copyright protection through Google, Wal-Mart and Amazon.com.

“If anyone wants to take Apple on, they have to simplify the process and streamline, not only purchasing music but moving it over to the devices that consumers really want and that’s where Apple kind of stays ahead of everybody,” says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

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