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iPod talks, Apple whispers

Could Apple's (aapl) new product marketing machinery get any more efficient?

Gone are those high production value Macworld keynotes starring Steve Jobs (he last appeared in 2008). Gone too, apparently, are the Special Events for selected press at Apple's Cupertino headquarters (the last, in the fall, featured Jobs).

Last week's refresh of the Mac desktop line was accomplished with a drumroll of spyshots and a pair of press releases, yet there didn't seem to be any lack of media interest. (See here.)

Wednesday's announcement of a new iPod shuffle -- "the first music player that talks to you" -- was a little more challenging. After all, it involved a price increase (from $49 for the 1 GB square shuffle to $79 for the new 4 GB rectangular model) and a new control mechanism that you might have trouble mastering on your own.

No problem. In this case, all it took was a press release and an online video. You can see "Hannah" give her 4 1/2-minute guided tour of the new shuffle at Apple's website here or watch the YouTube version below the fold.

Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster thinks the new features will drive iPod sales higher and fatten already healthy profit margins. After the announcement, he raised his 2009 fiscal year Apple earnings estimate a few cents, from 5.06 to $5.09 per share.

Munster points to the new shuffle and rumors of a new touchscreen device as encouraging evidence of Apple's continued innovation after the disappointments of Macworld 2009. He believes we will see a new touchscreen device from Apple -- either in the form of a tablet computer or a smaller, cheaper MacBook -- but not before 2010.

Below: Hannah's iPod shuffle demo.

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