Even though Apple did not invent the first personal MP3 player, the company has dominated the market since the iPod’s debut in 2001. However, even Apple isn’t immune to market forces. The company recently “shuffled” its line of iPod Shuffles and redefined its lower-end Nano players.

Now you can pick up a flash memory-based, 1GB Nano for $149 or shell out $249 for a 4GB model. Until now, the lowest capacity Nano weighed in at 2GB and $199.

Apple also reduced prices on its gum pack-sized iPod Shuffle by dropping the price of the 512 megabyte model from $99 to $69 and the 1GB model from $129 to $99.

Meanwhile, Dell has begun to phase out its line of hard drive-based players and will concentrate on flash-based models such as the DJ Ditty player, which costs $99. Last fall DM Holdings, parent company of MP3 player pioneer Rio, pulled out of the personal player biz to concentrate on more traditional home audio products.

“No one has been able to catch up to Apple,” IDC analyst Susan Kevorkian said. “Apple’s ongoing dominance has made it difficult not only for major consumer electronics brands to compete, but also the much smaller brands.”