Apple unveils new iPods, Apple TV; updates iOS, iTunes

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

In a music-themed media event yesterday, Apple Inc. unveiled three new iPod portable music players, as well as an upgraded Apple TV system. Apple also announced updates for its iTunes software and iOS mobile operating system.

The annual event started at 10 a.m. PDT (1700 UTC) in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who led yesterday's keynote speech at the event, was dressed in his typical black long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes. He began by discussing new international Apple Stores, an update to the company's iOS mobile operating system, and the release of a new gaming app, Game Center. Jobs then turned his attention to what he called the "entrée" of the day.

Apple will release new versions of its iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod Touch lines next week in what Jobs called "the biggest change in the iPod line ever." The iPod Shuffle's VoiceOver capabilities have been extended to playlists, meaning that it will now be able to read off the names of songs, artists, and playlists. The new device is priced at US$49.

Jobs also showed off the company's new iPod Nano. The Nano, now smaller and without a click wheel, features a new multi-touch screen that allows users to touch virtual buttons to control the device. The new design is 42 percent lighter and 46 percent smaller, but still includes functions on previous Nanos, such as an FM radio and a pedometer. The 8 GB version will cost US$149, while the 16 GB version will be priced at US$179.

Jobs announced an updated iPod Touch as well, an announcement that had been widely expected for some time. The new, thinner Touch has been upgraded with features matching some already on the company's recently-released iPhone 4, including the high-resolution "Retina" display and dual video cameras. One camera, located on the back the of the iPod Touch, is for recording video, while the other camera, located on the front, is for use with Apple's FaceTime video calling program. FaceTime allows users of the latest iPhone and iPod Touch models to conduct video chats with each other over Wi-Fi networks. The iPod Touch starts at US$229 for a 8 GB model, US$299 for 32 GB, and US$399 for 64 GB.

Another major product refresh unveiled yesterday was the Apple TV. The digital media receiver was first released in 2007, but was never very popular. Jobs even admitted that, although Apple has "sold a lot of them, they've never been a huge hit." The US$99 second-generation Apple TV is both smaller and cheaper than its predecessor, which was priced at US$229. The new version will let consumers stream content from online sources, including Netflix, and rent both movies and television shows. Apple has made a deal with Fox and ABC to let users rent episodes of shows for 99¢, instead of buying programs. "We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board with this pretty fast," added Jobs. High-definition movies can be rented for US$4.99, and the new Apple TV will be available for purchase in around four weeks.

Among the less-hyped updates was one to AirPlay, previously named AirTunes. AirPlay lets users stream music, photos, and videos from iOS devices to other Wi-Fi-enabled systems. AirPlay would let a video on an iPad be played on a television via Apple TV.

Along with an iOS update came one for Apple's online music store application, iTunes. The biggest news involving iTunes 10, which is available for download now, is Apple's new music-based social network, Ping. "It is sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes," described Jobs. "It is not Facebook. It is not Twitter. It is something else we've come up with. It's all about music." Built into iTunes, Ping allows a user to follow both friends and artists to find new music and concert tours, and anyone with an iTunes account will be able to access Ping upon updating to iTunes 10. Ping will have settings for privacy as well, giving users the option to approve followers. Jobs also introduced a new iTunes logo, which does not include an image of a CD on it because music sales on iTunes are expected to overtake CD sales soon.

Jobs concluded the event by bringing out Chris Martin, a member of the award-winning band Coldplay. Martin, who played a few songs on the piano, including the hit song "Yellow," jokingly called his performance "the toughest closing gig I've ever had."

Although many of yesterday's announcements had been predicted ahead of time, some had speculated that Apple would go even further. Apple defied expectations of a new cloud-based music service. They also did not extend the amount of time a buyer could sample music on iTunes, as some had guessed.


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