Apple Computer has unveiled an adapter that lets users of its trendy iPod digital music player connect them to stereo systems in some BMW and Mini Cooper models and use buttons on the steering wheel to play their music libraries.


According to Reuters, Apple and BMW said in a joint statement that the adapter, priced at $US149, would work in BMW’s 3 series, Z4 Roadster, X3 and X5 SUVs and the Mini Cooper, and will be powered by the car, not the iPod’s battery.


Drivers plug the iPod into a cable in the car’s glove compartment and then can control the iPod using the standard buttons on the steering wheel, the companies said, according to the report.


Reuters noted that some new cars already have audio jacks that can be used to connect digital music players, including the iPod, to car stereos, and devices using a car’s power outlet and a cassette player or a small radio transmitter are available but many new cars no longer have cassette players.


Apple reportedly said this was the first time that an adapter had been specifically designed to integrate the player with the existing audio controls of a particular car model.


Reuters said Apple’s iPod is the most popular digital music player on the market, and the company has sold more than three million of the devices since their introduction in October 2001. The iPod works with Apple’s iTunes online music store which has been running in the US for some time and was recently launched in the UK.


“This is the first really big step that’s been taken to marry iPod to automobiles,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, in a telephone interview with the news agency. “And there will be other steps.”


According to Reuters, Jobs and Tom Purves, chief executive of BMW of North America, said their agreement was not exclusive, which means Apple tie-ups with other car makers could follow. The companies have been working on the technology for more than a year.


Purves told Reuters that over time BMW will make the BMW iPod Adapter compatible with stereo systems in its 5 series and 7 series models and the rest of its product line but he declined to say when this would happen.


Those models have the stereo integrated with other systems, such as sat-nav, controlled by the central I-drive controller.


“They value it as private time and now they can listen to music on their iPods in a safe way,” Purves reportedly said, referring to the time that BMW drivers spend in their cars.


The roll-out is being supported by a dedicated Web site called www.ipodyourbmw.com, as well as a marketing campaign including print, outdoor, online and television advertising, the companies told Reuters.


“The cars that are being served now … these are the cars that a lot of young, hip people buy,” Jobs reportedly said. “It’s right in the sweet spot of where the iPod is.”


Jobs, when asked about the company’s small, 5% share of the computer market, often responds by noting that Apple and BMW have about the same percentage share of their respective markets, and that he doesn’t see BMW complaining, Reuters noted.


The companies reportedly said the adapter must be installed by authorised BMW and Mini centres only. The device will be available at BMW centres from July 12 for 2002, 2003 and 2004 models. The adapter for the Mini will be available later this summer, Reuters added.