At Apple's "Let's Rock" special event today, Steve Jobs introduced a new version of iTunes, the availability of HD TV shows for the American market, a new design for the iPod Nano and iPod touch, as well as a major update for the iPhone/iPod touch firmware. According to Jobs, Apple has sold 160 million iPods worldwide and now holds 73.4% of the market in the US.
Some things we didn't see:
- new iPod Shuffle
- push notification for iPhone
- one more thing...
With regards to TV shows on iTunes, Apple announced the availability of a select number of shows in HD, including Monk, The Office, and Heroes. Apple also announced the return of NBC to the iTunes store.
The user interface of iTunes 8 only received minor cosmetic updates such as a flat album cover view and one-click automated playlist creation. The major addition to iTunes is the 'Genius' feature, that will make buying recommendation and suggest playlists based on your buying behavior and the music already in your library.
Apple also announced that iTunes will start sending data about the songs you listen to and your music preferences back to Apple. This is an opt-in service and, according to Jobs, completely anonymous, but privacy advocates are surely going to take a very close look at this.
Classic: The iPod Classic has been cut down to one model with 120GB. According to Jobs, most users only considered the 80GB model anyway.
Nano: The Nano received a major design overhaul, with a curved glass front and a larger screen and a built-in accelerometer. The UI for the Nano is now similar to that of the iPhone/iPod touch.
One nifty new feature: Thanks to the accelerometer, you can now just shake your nano and it will automatically go into shuffle mode.
The nano can now play 24h of music and 4h of video.
The new nano will cost $149 for 8GB and $199 for 16GB and should ship in the next few days. It's available in a whole rainbow of colors:blue, purple, orange, green, and pink.
It also looks as if the new headphones for the iPod's have microphones, though it is not immediately clear why. We assume that all the iPods now have voice recording built-in by default.
Ipod Touch: Apple also introduced a new iPod touch, which keeps the same design as the old one, but is a bit thinner and has a stainless steel rim with integrated volume controls on the side (hey - I want that for the iPhone as well!) and built-in speakers.
Nike+ now comes standard with the iPod touch, though you would still need a transmitter for your shoes.
According to Apple, the iPod touch can play 36hrs of music and 6hrs of video and the price points are: 8GB, $229, 16GB for $299, and a 32GB for $399.
According to Jobs, 100 million apps have been downloaded from the store in only 60 days.
Games: Apple is clearly trying to push the iPod/iPhone as a mobile gaming platform. Jobs stressed that there are now over 700 games available for the iPhone/iPod touch platform. To drive this point home, Phil Schiller demoed Spore Origins for the iPod (our review of Spore for the PC was mostly negative, but the iPhone game has gotten rave reviews so far). Phil also demoed 'Real Soccer 2009' and 'Need for Speed,' which both look like they are very good games as well.
The updated firmware is available for the iPod touch for $9.99.
For the iPhone, Apple promises that this updated fixes the problems with dropped calls and crashes in Safari and other applications that have plagued the phone from the beginning. iPhone users can also expect better battery life, though Jobs did not go into any specifics. Apple also promises that backups will now be considerably faster (right now, some users are experiencing backups that can take hours).
The update will be available on Friday.
Overall, this was a bit of a lackluster event. While the updates to iTunes and the 'Genius' feature are interesting, the updates to the iPod line were, at best, incremental. The new look of the iPod nano is nice (though surely some will complain about it as well), but also nothing too revolutionary. Apple, of course, is in a hard spot, where it is constantly expected to surprise us. This event didn't hold many surprises, especially because 90% of the news had already leaked before the even even started.
One thing that did surprise us was that Apple did not make any announcements about the availability of push notifications for the iPhone in the next release of the firmware. It could still be part of the update, but so far, there is no indication that this will indeed be the case.