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Tuesday, December 14, 2004, 05:55 pm PT (08:55 pm ET)

Apple begins manufacturing new iPod mini player

Apple has teamed with Seagate to deliver a revision to its trendy iPod mini digital music player early next year.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer this month has entered into production the first update to its colorful iPod mini digital music player, highly reliable sources tell AppleInsider.

The production, which is now taking place in Asia, has reportedly been underway for at least a week. The company's objective is to produce an ample supply of the players before making an official announcement of the new models in early 2005.

Inside the new iPod mini will be a 5GB hard disk capable of storing up to 1250 music tracks, a 25% increase over the the current iPod minis which hold 1000 songs on a 4GB drive.

In order to begin producing the new players prior to the new year, sources say Apple has enlisted Seagate Technologies, a worldwide leader in hard disk design and manufacturing, as its supplier of 1-inch 5GB microdrives.

Apple is reportedly hoarding as many of Seagate's 5GB ST1 drives as possible, in an effort to build a stockpile of the new minis that will adequately cater to initial product demand.

Seagate joins two other hard drive manufacturers that currently supply Apple with drives for its digital music players. Toshiba manufactures the drives for Apple's iPod and iPod photo, while Hitachi provides the company with 4GB hard disks for its current iPod mini offerings.

Apple introduced the iPod mini in January of 2004 to much fan-fare, but was unable to meet demand for the players until the second half of the year, due to poor planning and inadequate supplies of the 4GB microdrives from component supplier Hitachi.

Around the same time that Apple introduces the revised iPod mini, the company is also is expected to launch a flash-based iPod that will sell for below (US)$200. Sources say this player is currently being produced in droves in the industrial district of Taiwan.

Both Apple and Seagate declined to comment on plans for an iPod mini revision.