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Apple stores to go cashwrap-free; media player sales going flat?

Apple Inc.'s retail shops will be some of the first to drop dedicated cash registers almost entirely when the company expands on-the-spot payment system, according to ifo Apple Store. Meanwhile, a study suggests handheld jukebox sales may be flat from this year onwards.

Apple to drop cashwraps in most stores

Shoppers who appreciated Apple's handheld payment systems during the holiday rush can now look forward to encountering the method all year round, ifo Apple Store says in a new report.

First brought out as an experiment to cope with a deluge of customers in November 2005, the system has proven successful in shrinking long checkout lines; by using handhelds from Motorola-owned Symbol Technologies, Apple's floor sales clerks can accept credit card payment wherever the customer happens to be and have an e-mail receipt sent out.

The move has saved paper and reduced the average waiting time for a purchase at the company's stores, prompting the company to expand the system beyond the few months of peak holiday shopping, the report claims.

Most of Apple's stores will scrap dedicated cashwrap stations altogether with the move, shifting tasks that can't be handled by the Symbol handhelds to computers at Genius Bars. Flagship stores such as Apple's Manhattan-area locations will continue to include cashwraps to cope with demand.

The transition should be complete within a few weeks at every location affected by the switch.

Analysts: media player market to peak in 2008, help Apple

The market for handheld music and video jukeboxes is set to finally level off this year but may play into Apple's hands, according to a new report published by iSuppli.

Research by company analysts indicates that world revenue for portable media players grew just 8 percent in 2007 and will shrink further still this year to 3.5 percent. The situation may only get worse: sales between 2008 and 2011 are expected to grow just a single percentage point, the report claims.

Analysts at iSuppli assign blame both to inexpensive players, which reduce the income from each unit sold, and from a market which is increasingly likely to use its cellphone as a music player instead.

However quickly the market for non-phone devices grows, Apple may stand to reap the benefits, the analysts note. In a stagnant industry, Apple's existing control should let it survive where others fail, snapping up customers from floundering rivals. The marketshare lead should also buy time for Apple while it shifts attention to the iPhone.

Archos takes a shot at Apple TV with new media hub

With the Consumer Electronics Show beginning this coming Monday, companies are already announcing their devices ahead of the event — some of which are likely to challenge Apple.

A premature leak from Archos began the comparisons on Thursday. The Archos TV+ mimics the Apple TV media hub but promises features lacking from Apple's first-generation device, including web browsing, direct downloads, and video inputs for TV recording.

The Archos device is also less costly than its competition and should sell for $250 with 80GB of storage — double that of the 40GB Apple TV, which sells for $300. A $350 version will supply 250GB of space versus Apple's $399, 160GB media hub.

Nonetheless, the victory may be relatively inconsequential: a recent study by ABI Research claims that the Apple TV is leading a weak industry and that most such devices have failed to gain much attention from the buying public.