We've gotten a deluge of emails over the last week from readers and insiders speculating about the next iPod release; after all, it's been a couple months since Apple loosed the iPhone, the new iMac is official and living large, and current iPods have seen a price drop -- something that only comes strictly mandated by Apple HQ. What's more, sources at retailers are continuing to tell us that Apple is slowing down iPod shipments, strongly suggesting the company is running out its current stock to make room on shelves for new product.

We can't speak to what specific technology Cupertino's got brewing behind the scenes (we know it's OS X-based, and hear it'll use more flash), but whatever it is, we'd wager it'll be released in September or October. And not just because Apple's has taken to launching at least some new iPods every year since 2003, or admitted that it considers its iPhone business its "third", separate from its dedicated music player business (and thus wouldn't consider the iPhone its big iPod launch for 2007), or has just generally been mum about the iPod all year. It's more to do with the fact that since 2004 the company has statistically fallen into the groove of using those two months to launch new flagship iPods (probably thanks to their close-but-not-too-close proximity to the holidays).

Do we have inside dope from Apple on this one? No, none at all. Just a lot of retail reports and mounting evidence that suggests a pretty obvious conclusion. Yeah, we expect new iPods this year (seriously, why wouldn't there be?), and if we were gamblin' men we'd put our money on the September - October. Of course, we know Steve will totally read this and launch in November or December just to mess with us, but hey, as long as the masses get their music players before our annual present-opening ceremonies, everybody's happy.

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