Apple unveils new iPod that has wi-fi and touch screen

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After a week of feverish speculation, Apple released its new iPod last night, confirming rumours that the sixth generation of the digital music player will have a 3.5in touch-screen and integrated wi-fi connection, allowing users to connect to the internet from an iPod for the first time.

The new iPod will play video downloaded direct from the internet, as well as video games, both with widescreen view. Users will still be able to transfer music on to the player direct from iTunes, Apple's music provider.

The new iPod carries many of the features associated with Apple's iPhone, released earlier in the year, and closely resembles that product in appearance.

There had been frenzied gossip in anticipation of yesterday's media event in San Francisco's Moscone Convention Centreabout what Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple, would be announcing. The event was broadcast live by video-link to the BBC's offices in West London.

Mr Jobs, 52, also announced the launch of new versions of the iPod Shuffle and the iPod Nano, both smaller versions of the iPod, as well as an upgraded version of the existing full-size model that will now come in a metallic finish. The new iPod Nano will have a 2.5in (6.3cm) screen for watching movies and playing games, and will be available in five different colours.

It had been over a year since Apple released a new generation of the iPod or iPod Nano, the longest period between new generations of the music player. September, traditionally the start of the holiday season in America, has provided Apple with sharp rises in sales in the past. Apple is notoriously guarded about its new releases, and excellent at attracting publicity for launches. It certainly succeeded at yesterday's event, billed The Beat Goes On. In the past week alone, shares in Apple rose by 13.5 per cent. The company has sold more than 100 million iPods since it launched the product five years ago. Goldman Sachs predicts the new iPod will improve on its forecast of 19.8 million sales in the next quarter, and may allow Apple to match its 21 million sales over the same period last year.

Last summer, Apple's quarter-on-quarter iPod sales dipped for the first time since its launch.

The generation game

iPod – First Generation

Released in October 2001, the first iPod revolutionised the MP3 market and stored what was then an impressive 5GB of music (around 1,000 songs). Priced at £349, it had a mechanised scroll wheel with buttons on its right, left, top and bottom.

iPod – Second Generation

Released in July 2002, it came with what is now Apple's trademark touch-sensitive scroll-wheel and was compatible with Windows for the first time. It came with 10GB or 20GB.

iPod – Third Generation

Released in April 2003, it separated the four buttons from the wheel, putting them between it and the screen. A "cradle" allowed the user to recharge the batteries and put songs onto the 40GB player.

iPod – Fourth Generation

Just over a year later the buttons were returned to the wheel. The price of the player was substantially cut, to £219 for the standard 20GB model, and the player's short battery life, a common complaint of iPod users, was extended.

iPod Shuffle

In January 2005, Apple released what they said was the smallest digital music player in the world. Much smaller than the conventional iPod, it had no screen or click wheel and used 512MB or 1GB flash memory rather than a hard drive.

iPod Nano

Slimmer than a pencil, the Nano was released in September 2005 to cover the middle ground between the standard iPod and the Shuffle. A new widescreen version was launched yesterday.

iPod – Fifth Generation

Marketed as iPod5G, and released in October 2005, this iPod showed videos for the first time. With a larger screen and much slimmer design, the standard version came with 60GB.

iPod – Sixth Generation

After years of speculation, the iPod finally becomes a touch-screen device. Largely a derivative of the iPhone, which was launched earlier this year in the United States, the new iPod is a multimedia device that allows wireless web-browsing and widescreen video viewing... and you can listen to music on it. It has a smaller memory than traditional iPods, but is available with more than the iPhone. Updated versions of fifth-generation iPods have also been launched – these have a massive storage capacity.