In front of a crowd at San Francisco?s Moscone Center that was mostly invited media guests, Steve Jobs has once again raised the bar with Apple. Though most people knew it was coming, especially with the media invites suggesting the announcements would be ?Music to (our) ears,? today?s announcements ended months of speculation with Apple redesigning the iPod, updating iTunes, and introducing a new music downloading service.
Jobs started with the new iPod. The iPod now comes in configurations of 10GB, 15GB and 30GB. Apple cut down the thickness of the iPod once again, and rounded out the curves. They also redesigned the front, putting backlighting on the buttons, and moving the 4 buttons between the wheel and the screen. There are now no moving parts on the iPod, except for the lock switch on top. The firewire port has been removed, being replaced with a new proprietary port on the bottom instead of the top, while the remote control port that fit around the headphone jack has been redesigned, a casualty of the slimmer design. Softwarewise, the new iPod has 2 new games, Solitaire and Parachute. To complement the contacts and the calendar, it can now save text notes from your computer. Also, it has a sleep timer, and now it has an alarm clock that lets you wake up to your iPod.
The iPod also has some new accessories. Whereas you used to just lie the iPod somewhere on your desk and connect it to your Mac, the new iPod comes with a dock (10GB model it?s sold seperately) that you can connect to either Firewire or USB2. Belkin is the first partner to come out with products specifically for the new iPod, with a car adapter, FM tuner, and external battery that runs on 4 AAs, so you get 20 extra hours of battery life.
Apple also upgraded iTunes to version 4, and version 4 includes capabilities such as AAC playing, as well as 2 brand new cool features. One of them is Rendezvous support, which Jobs showed off when introducing Jaguar last summer. With iTunes and Rendezvous, a person can search their network, either wired or wireless through Airport or Bluetooth, to find other people?s playlists. While it doesn?t copy or download the songs from the other person?s computer, you can still listen to them and enjoy them without having to download them.
The coolest and newest feature of today?s announcements is the brand new downloadable music service called iTunes Music Store. The Store allows you to search for music on iTunes 4, and download them automatically for 99 cents each, or entire albums for $9.99, all prices in U.S. dollars (and the service is only for Americans for the first little while). They signed pacts with all 5 of the major music companies, and even received exclusive tracks not available anywhere else, from major artists including Eminem, U2 and Sheryl Crow. Apple hopes people will choose the 99 cent price tag because of the reliability of the downloads, and you also know who you?re getting the download from; Apple. Plus, the music industry won?t try to send you viruses or expletive-filled artists tirades because this service is very legal.
To help prevent pirating, Apple has put some shields in place. While you can download to an unlimited number of iPods, you can only share a song on 3 Macs. And you can burn to an unlimited number of CDs, but after every 10th CD, you have to rebuild the playlist to be able to burn the song again.
There were no hints as to whether Apple has bought out or partnered with Universal Music. And no other announcements either, at least until Apple?s Worldwide Developer Conference in May.