Like the nano, Apple's fifth-generation HDD iPods are expected to gain an Apple-designed click-wheel and see a significant reduction in overall size and volume.
Sources believe the new players feature Toshiba's perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) 1.8-inch HDDs, which are setting new benchmarks for data density. Toshiba has announced the drives in 40GB and 80GB capacities, with the 40GB model packing up to 10,000 songs or 25,000 photos on a single platter.
The 40GB drive features the largest single-platter capacity yet achieved in the 1.8-inch form factor, according to the company. Meanwhile, an 80GB version of the drive stores double the amount of data via two 40GB platters.
The new PMR drives are just 5mm and 8mm thick, respectively, making the 40GB drive roughly 3mm thinner and 15% smaller in volume than the 40GB drive Apple used in an earlier version of the iPod.
Sources also continue to support rumors that the new iPods will gain video playback functionality, but have provided very little evidence backing their assertions.
Perhaps the most reliable report on the subject has come from the Wall Street Journal, which in July reported that Apple held discussions with major recording companies over licensing video content for a video-capable version of the iPod due this fall.
The Journal has been extremely accurate in its predictions on Apple this year, even calling the Mac maker's transition to Intel chips in the months leading up to the announcement.
Apple's resellers and retails also anticipate the release of new HDD iPods from Apple and are revising their orders in preparation of new products, AppleInsider has been told. They say current inventory and order trends associated with the 20GB and 60GB iPod photo models are indicative of forthcoming refreshes. Resellers also report lagging sales of iPod photos over the last few months.
Likewise, sources say Apple remains in a position where they could suddenly introduce new professional Macs such as dual-core Power Mac G5s and jazzed-up PowerBooks G4s. Inventory levels of all Macs are are significantly lower than usual with the company's September fiscal quarter ending earlier in the week.
Over in Europe, Apple's distribution channels are as dry as they have ever been, according France-based MacBidouille. "It never happened before, networks between the European distributors for Apple and the local AppleCenters are almost empty," said Lionel, the Web site's editior. "Beside some eMacs and PowerBooks, there is no stocks from the Powermac G5 to the Mac mini, the same for the iBook and the of course the iPod."
While it has been reported that Apple continues to struggle with a final update to its PowerPC-based PowerBook G4 line, volume Macintosh buyers were told this week that they could expect Power Mac G5-related announcements sometime in the "next two weeks."