“Apple reinvents the music player”

On Sept. 9, Apple, Inc. and Steve Jobs, complete with new liver, put out one of it’s most important announcements of the year at it’s annual September iPod announcement.
There were many points were covered at the event that the tech journalists knew in advance. After Jobs’ initial rare moment of personal information, and imploring all those attending to become organ donors, he immediately moved into talk of the iPhone and iPod Operating System. Apple pushed out the 3.0 version of the operating system in June of this year, near the release of the iPhone 3GS, complete with a new set bugs. The announcement of version 3.1 of the iPhone OS brings welcomed fixes and support for some of the new iTunes 9 features, although VPN still doesn’t seem to work on the Oswego State wireless.
The next announcement, as foreshadowed by the iPhone OS 3.1, was the announcement of the new iTunes 9 software. iTunes 9 carries with it an overhauled look, with lighter colors, that replaces much of the black in iTunes 8. A number of buttons and icons were also changed. The big improvements however, lie in the iTunes Store. The entire store received a complete design overhaul, a change that is much appreciated and was much needed. The overhaul brought with it "Home Sharing," the "iTunes LP," and "iTunes Extras," though still no tabbed browsing. "Home Sharing" is a neat idea that allows users to connect home (or dorm) computers together to share purchased music between authorized computers over the home network, making it much easier to put the songs onto flash drives.
The other new features have more to do with the actual purchases from the iTunes Store. The "iTunes LP" is Apple’s project "cocktail," and is how the company intends to bring the album experience to digital downloads. "iTunes LPs" are bought just like albums through the iTunes Store, but come with an extra file that opens a new screen similar to a DVD menu in the iTunes window. The "iTunes LP" includes the ability to play the album with specialized (often boring) visualizations, view the track list with quotes about the songs from the band, and some special artwork and videos. Not exactly the most interesting thing to most people, though you also get the album in AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) form, and there’s no DRM (Digital Rights Management), which is a plus. "iTunes Extras" is similar, but for the movies and TV shows in iTunes. "iTunes Extras" essentially gives movies the same effect as a DVD, but through digital download rather than actually purchasing a DVD. Put that together with the recent price drops on Apple TV, and there’s hardly a need for DVDs, as long as every movie can get iTunes Extras.
The last new iTunes 9 updates both include the "Genius" feature. First, there’s finally "Genius" suggestions for iPhone/iPod apps, which could make new apps much easier to find than they currently are in the massive library. Second is "Genius Mixes." "Genius Mixes" are pre-made Genius playlists that iTunes will build for you based on your library. "Genius" is not perfect, as it relies on everyone else using "Genius," and there’s no option to have more or less than nine "Genius" playlists, which is a bit annoying.
These new "Genius Mixes" work easily in iPhone OS 3.1, and the new iPod Touch model that was announced next. As expected, Apple churned out new 32 GB and 64 GB models of the iPod touch at $299 and $399, respectively, both with the same specs as the 3GS. The new touches also knocked the current, second generation 8 GB touch down to $199, to go with Apple’s idea of making a portable gaming machine for the masses. While the new touches had fairly obvious specs, there was one piece missing that all those in the know had expected, and we’d find out with good reason.
That missing feature was a camera sensor, which was placed in the new iPod nano only (though the touch has a hole on the logic board that will fit the sensor that’s in the nano). The camera is meant to be Apple’s shot at Flip video, which is succeeds in, at least by the first-generation Flip standards. The nano’s camera can only shoot video, and can only shoot in VGA, or 640 x 480 pixels, which can make for a somewhat standard YouTube video. Apple won’t allow it to take still images because they won’t turn out well. The new nano is also taking a strike at the Zune HD, and is the first iPod to include an FM receiver, as compared to the Zune HD’s HD Radio, though the nano does feature DVR-like features for live radio, which is neat. The Nike+ functionality is also now built into the nano, using the accelerometer as a pedometer. The nano comes in a similar shape to last year, with the same storage numbers, slightly different colors and lower prices, so you can get 8 GB for $149 or 16 GB for $179.
Apple also announced upgrades to the shuffle, at much lower prices, but aside from the stainless steel version, there’s nothing remarkable to be seen there. Overall, the announcements were expected, and a bit disappointing on the side of the touch. The new iTunes features bring with them a better chance that we might, someday, see an Apple tablet, which is the biggest thing to take away. Apple wants to try to bring everything you want in portable devices into one device, though with these announcements it looks like there’s a lot that will have to be sacrificed to do so right now.

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