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Apple Announces New iPods, iTunes 10, iOS 4.1, and a New Apple TV

At a special event this morning, Apple unveiled a whole new line of iPods (new shuffles, nanos, and a powerful iPod touch), iTunes 10 with a built-in “Ping” social network, announced iOS 4.1 and teases iOs 4.2…and revealed a new $99 AppleTV with Netflix support and $0.99 television show rentals through iTunes.

New iPods

During the event, Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced a revised iPod line, introducing new iPod shuffles and iPod nanos, along with a new iPod touch that has a lot in common with the iPhone 4.

The new iPod shuffle is even smaller than the current teeny-tiny iPod shuffle, but feature both physical buttons (much-missed in the current edition), and features playlist and voice-speaking features of the third-generation model, including support for Genius mixes. The shuffles retain their 2 GB storage capacity. Apple says the new shuffles will handle 15 hours of music playback, and will be available in five colors (blue, gold, green, pink, and silver) at a retail price of $49.

The iPod nano is getting smaller…and gaining a multitouch color display. The new iPod nano loses the signature clickwheel controller in favor of a multitouch display—and gains a clik so its instantly wearable like the iPod nano. The new iPod nano is almost half the size and half the weight of its predecessor, and supports 29 languages along with offering 24-hour battery life. Jobs’s demonstration of the iPod nano seems to show it is not an iOS device; nonetheless, the nano borrows several conventions from Apple’s experience with the iPhone and iPad—anyone familiar with current Apple offers will feel right at home. Users can even rotate the display around by twisting it with a two-fingered touch gesture. The iPod nano will be available in a PRODUCE (RED) version, as well as graphite, blue, gold, green, and pink: it’ll be $149 for an 8 GB version and a $179 for a 16 GB version.

Jobs then highlighted the iPod touch as the most popular iPod model, but also the most popular game playing device in the world, outselling Nintendo and Sony portable game device combined. So Apple is revising the iPod touch to focus more clearly on games and apps: the new iPod touch will feature the same 326ppi “retina display” Apple debuted with the iPhone 4, as well as the Apple A4 processor that powers the iPhone 4. The new iPod touch will also feature Game Center, a front-facing camera with FaceTime capability, enabling real-time video chat over Wi-Fi, along with a rear-facing camera with HD video recording capability—and remember that the iPod touch has in-device video editing capability via Apple’s iMovie application. The iPod touch will also support up to 40 hours of music playback on a single battery charge. The iPod touch will be available in 8 GB, 32 GB, and 64 GB models for $229, $299, and $399, respectively.

All the new iPod devices are available for pre-order now, and will begin shipping next week.

iOS 4.1

Jobs then announced iOS 4.1, on one hand a bug-fix for outstanding issues in iOS 4.1 (Bluetooth syncing, performance on the iPhone 3G, problems with the proximity sensor), but will also introduce TV show rentals, high-dynamic range photos, the ability to upload high-definition video over Wi-Fi, and Apple’s previously-announced Game Center. iOS 4.1 will be available next week for the iPhone and iPod touch, as a free download via iTunes.

iOS 4.1 will offer high-dynamic range (HDR) photography as a standard feature in iOS 4.1. HDR photos essentially take three images at once in rapid succession, one under-exposed, one over-exposed, and one with normal exposure settings. Software then merges the images together to create a single image with both high contrast and a wealth of detail that would normally be lost in a photograph with a single exposure setting. HDR photos can offer stunning quality; however, taking three pictures in rapid succession is also very vulnerable to motion and blur from camera shakes.

iOS 4.1 will also debut Game Center, which will focus on multi-player games, enabling users to hook up with their friend to challenge them to games online, or—in the event folks don’t have friends—match them up with similarly-skilled players who happen to be online at the time.

iOS 4.2

Jobs also took some time to discuss iOS 4.2, which will come in November with a focus on the iPad, although it will also support the iPhone and iPod touch. iOS 4.2 will bring all the iOS 4.1 capabilities to the iPad, with the addition of wireless printing and AirPlay, a new technology to stream video and photos over Wi-Fi. iOS 4.2 will also feature folders so users can group their iPad applications together, much as iPhone and iPod touch users can already do. iOS 4.2 will be available as a free download.

iTunes 10

To complement new iPods, Apple also took the wraps off iTunes 10, the latest version of its media-management and playback application. Apple noted that iTunes customers have downloaded almost 12 billion songs, over 400 million television shows, 100 million movies, as well as some 35 million books…and that next year iTunes may exceed the sales of CDs in the United States. To that end, Apple is ditching the venerable CD in the iTunes logo in iTunes 10. The iTunes 10 application for Windows and Mac OS X will offer a hybrid list view that will feature both album art and track information when a list shows more than five tracks from the same album, as well as continuing to serve as a central media hub for video, books, and iOS applications.

iTunes 10 will also focus on “discovery” with a new feature called “Ping,” a “social network all about music,” which will enable user to follow their friends to learn what music they’re talking about and downloading, as well as follow their favorite artists. Artist will have pages where they can converse with iTunes users can promote their new releases; users will also be able to see what music friends are listening to, what concerts they plan to attend, and more. Ping will appear right in the iTunes interface. Users will be able to determine who can follow them—privacy will be “super simple”—following can be turned off, restricted to a circle of friends, or made fully public.

Ping signals serious competition for services like iLike (recently acquired by MySpace) which attempt to integrate iTunes activity with social network; however, Ping may lose points by being a separate social service from widely-used social networking outlets like Twitter and Facebook.

Apple is making Ping available to over 160 million users in some 23 countries immediately. iTunes 10 is available today, and Ping will be available in the iTunes store for the iPhone and the iPod touch.

Apple TV

Jobs noted that the Apple TV has failed to be a big hit like the iPhone, iPad, or iPod…but that no other set-top solution has really taken off either. Jobs noted that Apple TV users al want high-definition, professional Hollywood content—”they don’t want amateur hour”—and don’t want a computer on their TV. Jobs also noted users want lower prices for content, and don’t want to have to think about managing storage for digital media or worry about syncing.

The new Apple TV is roughly one quarter the size of the previous Apple TV models—truly, astonishingly small, with an integrated power supply, HDMI output (with 5.1 surround sound support) plus Ethernet and integrated Wi-Fi connectivity.

Perhaps the most significant change with the Apple TV is that Apple is solving the storage problem by shifting to an all-rental model—with rental prices so low “you can watch it several times and it’s still cheaper than if you’d bought it.” The AppleTV can also stream movies, music, and photos from iTunes libraries on a users’ home network.

And about those rental prices: first-run high-definition movies will be available for $4.99 the day and date they come out on DVD—and they’ll get cheaper as the movies get older. High-definition TV shows will be available to rent for $0.99 commercial-free. Right now ABC and Fox are on board with the $0.99 rentals…and Jobs hopes other studios will quickly get on board. TV show rentals will be good for 48 hours. Amusingly, information about movies now includes ratings and reviews from a number of third parties…including Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix subscribers will also be able to stream content from the Netflix library on the new Apple TV, as well as tap into YouTube and Flickr: Apple is also touting its Netflix support as “by far the best implementation of Netflix”…which, honestly, given the onscreen Netflix interfaces we’ve seen, isn’t necessarily saying much.

The new AppleTV will also support Apple’s new AirPlay, so users will be able to stream content from an iOS device (like an iPad or iPhone) to an Apple TV.

Apple is pricing the new AppleTV a avery competitive $99—preorders are available today, with units expected to ship within four weeks

Apple Event Live Streaming

For the first time in many years, Apple streamed live video streaming of the event via the Internet. The feed used Apple’s “industry-leading” HTTP Live Streaming technology, which, ironically, meant it was only accessible on Macs running Mac OS X 10.6 or later, or iPhones, iPod touches, and iPads running iOS 3.0 or later. Unlike Apple’s earlier experiments with QuickTime streaming years ago, reports had the HTTP Live Streaming feed working reasonably well for many users.