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Apple's product news draws mixed reviews

Apple Computer's product news from the Macworld trade show last week evoked mixed reactions from its customers. Some cheered the company's technology vision while others complained about the disappearance of Apple's free Web services.

Among the announcements Apple chief executive Steve Jobs made at the show: Apple will sell a version of its iPod music player that will work with the approximately 50-million computers that run Microsoft Windows and that have high-speed FireWire capabilities. Until now, iPod has worked only with Apple's Macintosh computers.

Apple also dropped the price of the iPod to $299 for the version with a 5-gigabyte hard drive and $399 for the 10GB model, and added a 20GB model for $499.

Jobs also announced a version of the iMac personal computer with a bigger 17-inch flat screen, and he gave further details about Mac OS 10.2 (code-named Jaguar), which he had shown developers during an annual gathering in May. The features include software that makes it easier to network devices together and to synchronize data between computers, cell phones and Palm-based handheld computers.

But it was the elimination of an Apple product that sparked the most traffic on Internet sites.

Jobs announced that Apple would discontinue its free iTools Web services at the end of September. Instead, Apple will charge $99 a year for those services, plus a bevy of others _ the venture will be called .Mac. Existing users will pay $49 for the first year.

That means customers who signed up for free e-mail addresses with Apple's mac.com domain must pay the fee or abandon their e-mail addresses. Many Apple fans who posted comments on the MacAddict Web site (www.macaddict.com) were angry, saying they felt trapped by Apple.

Major free e-mail providers, such as Yahoo and Microsoft, have begun charging for advanced features in their free mail accounts. They have not gone to the extreme Apple has, though, charging for the basic account.

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