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Friday, March 24, 2006, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Big-box retailers offer hints at forthcoming iPod changes

This week there is new evidence to suggest that Apple Computer is slowly and quietly planning to spice up its most popular iPod offerings sometime in the near term.

Tipsters point out that Apple Authorized Reseller Amazon.com is now selling all of the company's iPod digital music players at costs below the company's suggested retail price. The retailer is offering 7 percent off fifth-generation video iPods and 5 percent off iPod nanos and iPod shuffles.

Meanwhile, on Friday Meijer, a discount chain in the Midwest, issued an ad offering a 10 percent discount on all the iPod models it stocks.

AppleInsider had previously reported that Apple in February notified its big-box retailers that the high-end 60GB iPod was "at risk" to changes through April.

Even more recently, an overseas publication close to Apple's manufacturing facilities reported that Quanta Computer had recently won a contract from Apple to manufacture new "video iPod devices."

The publication, which did not cite sources, said Quanta — manufactures of laptops for Apple — had been awarded certification for the "video iPod devices" and would begin delivering the devices next month.

While most of this recent information has pointed to new high-end iPods with video capabilities, American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu recently said that the iPod nano is experiencing greatest seasonal decline of all iPod models.

Wu suggested that Apple may soon need to increase storage capacities and/or cut prices to re-generate interest. "Declining prices in NAND flash and additional capacity coming on board should help Apple facilitate these moves," he wrote in a research note to clients.

The analyst also reported that his priority checks suggest Apple is working to deliver a new widescreen iPod with Bluetooth capabilities as early as its next fiscal quarter, which begins in April.