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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
iPod Nano maintains Apple's halo
David Reid
By David Reid
Reporter, BBC Click Online

iPod Nano
The iPod Nano was the star attraction for the hordes in Paris
Of all its products, it is the iPod which has set alight Apple's brand the most in recent years. And among the other computer-related items on show at the Apple Expo in Paris during the week, the iPod Nano still stood out.

The star of this year's Apple Expo was as slim and elegant as an after-dinner mint. Apple's latest candy-covered iPod, the Nano, comes in two or four gigabytes.

While it has suffered some teething problems - Apple has agreed to replace one batch prone to scratched or cracked screens - it still symbolises everything the company stands for, says Phil Schiller, Apple's head of worldwide product marketing.

"Apple is a company that makes products that are very advanced technology and yet incredibly easy to use. And we have a tremendous number of engineering skills and talents to do this.

"And it's the magic of how that all comes together to make a product work just the way a customer would want, that's easy and that you love to have as a part of your life."

Like Apple's boss, Steve Jobs, who returned to the company in 1996, the iPod and the online music store iTunes have been a breath of fresh air for a company that was somewhat becalmed.

'Halo effect'

The iPod has also given birth to what Jobs describes as an eco-system of supporting products, by other outfits feeding off the iPod's success.

This includes the first mobile telephone equipped to work with iTunes. However, Motorola's Rokr has received mixed reviews.

Steve Jobs
Apple was co-founded by Steve Jobs in 1976, and has many fans
But is the success of iPod and iTunes obscuring the struggle Apple is having in increasing its global market share in its core business: computers?

That share is still stuck at around three percent, but Apple points to what the media has dubbed the halo effect: the iPod is so dazzling that Apple's computers will be bathed in its divine light and the public will have to snap them up.

Phil Schiller says: "People for the first time are getting an Apple product with the iPod and seeing how great it is and are thinking about checking out our computers too."

Not everyone is so convinced, and sceptics say the halo effect might not be all it is cracked up to be.

Christopher Phin, from MacUser magazine, says: "It is something that Apple has decided they like the sound of and that they're using as a way of convincing people, possibly themselves, that the Mac is indeed doing everything it can in the market place and building its market share the way they want it to."

Attracting new users

That said, one move Apple has made this year is to launch the moderately priced Mac mini.

It is designed specifically for switchers: those already using a PC can plug their existing mouse, screen and keyboard into this Mac-in-a-box.

Phil Schiller says: "We always like to have more customers and we haven't stopped working hard to gain more. We are very proud that, over the last three quarters, our business has been growing twice as fast as the rest of the industry."

Apple iMac
Is Apple forgetting its core product, computers?
Apple is also changing its chip supplier to Intel. Most say this is because their chips run cooler, which is better for high-end laptops.

The change will also have implications for Mac's operating system OSX - designed to run on Macs alone - and which supports software like Final Cut Pro.

The new Intel versions of OSX have, however, already been hacked to work on non-Apple computers.

It was so easy that it has got some people wondering whether Apple is secretly planning to make OSX common currency for PCs as well, and challenge Microsoft's operating system Windows.

Exclusive brand?

Or so says the latest conspiracy theory, according to Chris Phin. "The way the story runs from there is that you have a system that's built to run on Intel that's easy to crack, so it's been cracked.

Christopher Phin
Two or three years down the line, Apple will start selling Mac OSX for Intel boxes
Christopher Phin, MacUser magazine
"So people will buy very cheap IBM PCs from Dell and other manufacturers like them, that are much less expensive than Apple's own kit. They will then run the operating system on that because Mac OSX is a fabulous operating system to use.

"Then, two or three years down the line, Apple will turn round and officially start selling Mac OSX for Intel boxes. And, of course, everyone who is then using it already will upgrade."

Like most conspiracy theories, this one is fed by secrecy. Apple is as concerned about its own image as it is about how its own products look.

One of the appeals of those products is that they feel exclusive. The danger for Apple in targeting the mass market is devaluing this brand. When you trade in cool, how long before cool becomes commonplace?

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0745 . Also BBC World.

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