Friday, September 11, 2009

Steve Jobs Eclipses New iPods at Apple Show

Ending weeks of speculation about whether or not he'd host Apple's next media event, CEO Steve Jobs took the stage Wednesday to usher in new iPods and a new version of iTunes. The new iPod nano will carry a built-in video camera; the shuffle will come in an array of colors, and iTunes 9 will be available with new tweaks and functions.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs returned to center stage to kick off the company's media event in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Apple made a slew of announcements, mostly focused on its iPod line and iTunes software, that included price cuts, new features and capabilities, and new products.
It unveiled a new version of the iPhone/iPod touch operating system as well as new iPods and a ninth version of iTunes with new features.

The King Is Back

The run-up to the media event was rife with speculation about whether or not Jobs would appear. His turning up sent a strong signal that he is firmly at the helm of the Apple ship once again following a fight with a serious illness that necessitated a liver transplant.
"This year, the biggest story of the event was the reappearance of company founder Steve Jobs, once again taking his place on center stage," Laura DiDio, principal at ITIC, told MacNewsWorld. "In the minds of many, Jobs is Apple. And despite evidence to the contrary, the health and fortunes of Jobs and Apple are inextricably intertwined."
Jobs opened the event to a standing ovation. He kicked things off by urging his audience to become organ donors, paying homage to the deceased individual whose liver was passed on to him, and thanking Tim Cook for running the company in his absence.
He announced that iPhone sales have hit the 30 million mark and that the iTunes app store now has more than 75,000 apps. The app store has seen 1.8 billion downloads, not including updates, Jobs said.

iPhone Stuff

Jobs announced the release of iPhone OS 3.1, available free from the app store as of Wednesday. It includes new features and bug fixes.
iPhone 3.0, released in June after Apple's WorldWide Developers Conference, had a few kinks in the system, including one that caused previously-deleted e-mails to mysteriously reappear.
Apple is also adding 30,000 ringtones from the major music labels. The price is $1.29 per ringtone.
Jobs also announced that Apple's Genius technology will work with apps as well as music. Users' iPhones will now suggest apps to them based on the apps they already have installed.

The Beat Goes On

The Genius technology has also been updated with the launch of Genius Mixes. Think of it as having your own personal digital DJ. Genius Mixes draws from the user's iTunes library to create up to 12 endless mixes of songs that go well together.
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iTunes 9 with app syncing
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Apple also unveiled iTunes 9, though Apple-watchers were already confident that iTunes was being revamped thanks to a slip on the iTunes Web page.
That slip was revealed on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) blog. Apple was quick to pick up on it -- a check of the iTunes page at 10:29 a.m. PST showed it had been restored to list only iTunes 8.
Besides Genius Mixes, other features of iTunes 9 include iTunes LP and Home Sharing.
iTunes LP combines design with live performance videos, lyrics, artwork, liner notes, interviews, photos and album credits. Think of it as your LP, complete with packaging, but in digital form. The first albums on iTunes LP include some from Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead and the Dave Matthews Band.
Home Sharing lets users transfer music, movies and TV shows among up to five authorized computers on the user's home networks.
The iTunes Store has also been reorganized, and Top Charts now have a preview button so users can try before they buy. Users can also gift an album or add one to their wishlist and share to Facebook or Twitter .
Syncing between iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1 has been improved, so users can organize their iPhone apps in iTunes and have them appear on their iPhones in the layout they pick. Users can also auto-sync purchases from shared accounts.
New iPod Nanos
In addition, Apple introduced a new iPod nano. This comes with a video camera, a microphone and a speaker. It has a 2.2-inch color display, a built-in FM radio with live pause and iTunes tagging, and a built-in pedometer.

iPod nano
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Apple wants to challenge the Flip video camera, and Jobs compared its new iPod to a Flip model retailing at $149.99.
The nano can be synced to a Mac or PC. Videos can be shared on YouTube , MobileMe or Facebook through e-mail. It provides up to 24 hours of music playback or five hours of video playback on one battery charge. The nano comes in nine colors, including silver, black, purple and pink.
The new nano comes in 8 GB and 16 GB versions. Prices are $149 and $179, respectively
Rocking the Gamers
In showing its new iPod touch models, Apple made a point to push the platform as a gaming device. Though the iPod touch has long been able to play many of the games available in the App Store, a significant amount of stage time Wednesday was given to top-shelf game developers. These included Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS) with "Madden NFL 10," a new edition in one of the largest sports game franchises.

iPod shuffle
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Apple also threw jabs at the Nintendo DS and the Sony (NYSE: SNE) PlayStation Portable in terms of game selection.
The iPod is "a great pocket computer with the industry's best mobile Web browser and a great game player, all in this super-thin, beautiful enclosure," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing.
Cupertino cut prices on the iPod touch and added a new 64 GB model.
The 8 GB model's price has been slashed from $229 to $199, and the 32 GB model has gone from $399 to $299. The 64 GB model is offered at $399.
"Steve Jobs cut the price on the iPod touch to $199 and positioned it as a downloadable app gaming competitor to the Nintendo DS and Sony PlayStation Portable, to say nothing of undercutting the soon-to-arrive Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Zune HD," Carl Howe, director of anywhere research at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
Giving More to Get More
Apple's price cuts may have been driven by necessity as well as by the upcoming holiday season.
While Apple has sold more than 220 million iPods, according to Schiller, sales have fallen off. Apple sold 10.2 million iPods in the last quarter, ITIC's DiDio pointed out, as compared to 11 million sold in the previous quarter, partly because of the advent of the iPhone 3GS.
"They're smart to slash the prices of the iPods because some investors were afraid it would be a sluggish season for iPod sales," DiDio said.
Also, the holiday season is just around the corner and, like every other vendor, Apple is ramping up.
"As with most recent holiday seasons, Apple just positioned iPod products for every major consumer price point for the big fourth quarter season," Yankee Group's Howe said. "And with 100 million credit cards already on file with the iTunes Store and consumers downloading more than 5 million applications a day, Apple intends to have a very Merry Christmas. The question is, will anyone else?"

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