Apple Goes 'Wild' Over New iPods

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils revamped line of iPods, updated iTunes, Apple TV

August 31, 2010, 6:35 PM

Sept. 1, 2010— -- Calling it the biggest change to the iPod line ever, Apple CEO Steve Jobs today unveiled a whole new line of Apple's iPods.

"Every year, we try to improve iPods, to make them better than ever for our users. This year, we've gone wild," Jobs said at the company's fall event in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center. "It's the biggest change in the iPod line ever."

Jobs kicked off the event with updates about new international retail stores, the latest operating system and a new gaming feature. But then he moved on to what he called the "entree."

He wowed the audience with an even tinier iPod shuffle, a smaller, multitouch iPod nano and an updated iPod touch that includes a front-facing camera that can be used for video chats.

Similar to previous nanos, the new version includes FM radio and a pedometer. But the updated version, which is 42 percent lighter and 46 percent smaller, no longer relies on a clickwheel for control.

Instead, the square-shaped device features multi-touch control that lets users tap buttons on the screen to choose songs, control volume, display pictures and more. The new device will cost $149 for the 8 gigabyte version and $179 for 16 gigabytes.

The revamped iPod Touch includes several features already on the iPhone 4, including a front-facing camera that lets users video chat with Apple's FaceTime. The video conferencing tool can only be used over Wi-Fi networks and with others who have the newest iPod Touch or the iPhone 4. Prices for the iPod Touch start at $229.

Jobs also announced that Apple updated the baby of the of iPod family -- the iPod shuffle. The new device still speaks names of songs and artists, but now is smaller and speaks names of playlists.

"It's really cute," he said, adding that the device will cost $49. All devices on the iPod line will be available next week.

Apple Introduces Ping, a Social Network for Music

In addition to launching a new line of iPods, Apple also pulled back the curtain on an updated version of iTunes, including a revamped logo.

For the tenth major version of iTunes, Jobs said the company decided to "ditch the CD" on the logo becauseiTunes will soon surpass CD sales.

But the changes to iTunes are more than cosmetic. Jobs also introduced Ping, a "social network for music."

"It's sort of like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes," he said.

The new service is built directly into iTunes and lets users follow favorite artists and friends to help them discover new music.

Once users register with the service, they can search for friends and artists to see the music they're listening to, downloading and talking about.

The service also generates custom top 10 charts of songs and albums, Jobs said.

For its "something extra," Apple unveiled an updated Apple TV, its set top box that delivers iTunes movies, TV shows and videos to a home TV set.

Jobs conceded that while Apple has "sold a lot of them, they've never been a huge hit." But he said that from listening to users, the company updated the service to reflect what people want in their living rooms.

The new, smaller and cheaper version of Apple TV lets users stream movies and television shows over the Internet. Instead of buying programs, users can rent TV shows for 99 cents and first-run movies for $4.99. The price for the new Apple TV is $99, down from $229. Jobs said Fox and ABC agreed to pilot the program but he hopes other studios will come on board later.

After introducing the company's latest wonders, Jobs brought Coldplay singer Chris Martin to the stage, who joked, "This is probably the toughest closing gig I've ever had."

He closed the program by playing a few tunes on the piano, including the Coldplay hit "Yellow."

While many of Apple's announcements had been foreseen by analysts and Apple fans, the presentation did fall short of some expectations.

In the lead-up to todays event, some industry watchers speculated that Apple could announce a service like Pandora or Slacker that allows users to store music selections in the so-called "cloud" instead of on their computer or mobile device. The company's recent acquisition of the online music service Lala bolstered that possibility.

"Ping was not in line with rumors that Apple could launch a cloud-based service," said Ross Rubin, a technology analyst with NPD group and columnist.

Some also thought that Apple might extend the amount of time iTunes users could sample music from 30 seconds to 90 seconds.

Despite those omissions, Rubin said that Ping could still lead to more music discovery for consumers and more purchases for Apple. It also more closely resembles other music subscription services, such as Rhapsody and Zune, that let members share thoughts on music, he said.

He also said the addition of the front-facing camera and FaceTime to the iPod Touch could introduce video chatting to a new group of users looking for a simple and affordable option.

The price reduction for the Apple TV could also make it more competitive with other devices that also let users stream Internet programs to their living rooms.

"We have seen some success in the market," Rubin said. "This product is similar… in its approach."

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