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Apple reference stirs touch-screen iPod frenzy [u]

A reference to an iPod digital music player with a "touch-screen" interface that turned up in a recently revised Apple Computer iPod developer document is causing some excitement amongst the Apple enthusiast community this week.

The solitary reference in an otherwise irrelevant and lengthy tutorial (1.5MB) on interfacing with the iPod's text-based "Notes" feature is more than likely a misprint than a company slip-up, but is garnering widespread attention amongst the blogging community nonetheless.

"Linking to photos and videos is supported only for 5th generation iPods running iPod Software version 1.2 or later," a technical writer for Apple wrote on page 10 of the 47-page tutorial. "All other Notes feature capabilities described in this document are supported for iPod models with display screens, beginning with the touch-screen models."

Based on the preceding information in the document, it's believed the citation is no more than a mistyped reference to the company's third-generation iPods which sport a touch-sensitive click-wheel interface.

Still, recent patent filings have made it abundantly clear the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPod maker is hard at work on a next-generation hard disk drive iPod that will likely sport some form of touch-screen control. The latest and most extensive filing that turn up last month referenced several touch-based iPod designs, including some with touch-screens and others with touch-sensitive enclosures.

Traditionally a tight-lipped company, Apple's divulgence in the latest series of filings emphasizes its willingness to tip its hand in order gain exclusive patent rights to vital next-generation media player technologies.

Apple has already been late to bat at least once in filing for crucial digital media player patents, which cost it dearly via an out-of-court settlement. In August, it payed rival Creative Technologies $100 million for a license to use its software interface patent, which covers most aspects of a digital music player's software interface, including the one featured on display-based iPods.

Apple, which filed for its own patent on the iPod's software interface, was turned down by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as a result of the earlier filing by Creative.

Update: As presumed, the touch-screen mention was a typo. The developer document has now been corrected to read: "All other Notes feature capabilities described in this document are supported for iPod models beginning with third-generation iPod (dock connector) models with touch wheel."