Apple Computer Inc. said today (Feb. 18) that it has received 100,000 orders for its iPod mini digital music player, which goes on sale Friday at Apple's retail outlets, its online store and through r

Apple Computer Inc. said today (Feb. 18) that it has received 100,000 orders for its iPod mini digital music player, which goes on sale Friday at Apple's retail outlets, its online store and through resellers.

The maker of Macintosh computers also said that retailer Target Corp. this week will start selling $15 prepaid cards for Apple's iTunes online music store alongside top-selling CDs and set up featured display areas where consumers can play with iPods at its 1,200 stores in the United States.

The prepaid cards carry a code that users key in when they enter iTunes.

The slender, smaller iPod mini -- about the length and width of a business card, weighing 3.6 ounces and holding 1,000 songs -- is Apple's answer to cheaper but lower-capacity flash-memory-based digital music players.

"iPod mini broadens the market for iPod by competing head-on with flash-based players," said Phil Schiller, head of worldwide product marketing for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple. "[The] iPod mini costs only about $50 more than a 256-megabyte flash-based player, yet it holds 16 times the music."

The iPod mini costs $249. The larger iPods, which have been wildly successful, hold 3,700-10,000 songs. Prices for the traditional iPods range from $299-$499.

Capacity for the iPod mini is 4 gigabytes, while the cheapest normal-sized iPod stores 15 gigabytes of data.

In January at the Macworld trade show in San Francisco, Apple's co-founder, chairman and chief executive Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod mini, along with a new version of its iLife digital lifestyle software and a new music program called Garage Band.

At the time, there was some disappointment that the price was not lower, but Apple says demand for the device has been strong nonetheless.

At Macworld, Jobs said that it had sold 730,000 iPods in the quarter just before the trade show, bolstering its market-leading position among digital music players.

"What we've seen anecdotally is that the iPod mini has been very attractive to the youth market, for an athletic lifestyle, and women seem really to like the iPod mini as well," said Stan Ng, head of product marketing for iPod. "It's been a great validation that iPod mini is expanding the market and iPod sales overall remain strong."

Ng said it was difficult to compare preorders for the iPod mini with those for earlier iPods, because none of the others had such a long lag between announcement and shipping. Between October 2001, when Apple introduced the original iPod, and the end of that year's Christmas quarter, Apple sold 125,000 iPods.

--Reuters