Apple’s Rock & Roll Event

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Last week Apple had one of its trademark media events focusing on the iPod and iTunes line-up. Apple has become notorious for building up huge expectations for these events, inspiring a flurry of online speculation and rumors as to what will be announced. Last week’s event was no exception. For weeks rumors had been circulating the internet as to what would be shown at the event: the iTablet, an Apple TV refresh, an appearance by the remaining Beatles? Well, people hoping for those things were sorely disapointed. However, a plethora of news did come out of the event and Rhombus is here to give you the rundown.

Steve’s Back!
After a six-month absence, Steve Jobs is finally back at Apple and gave the event’s keynote speech, complete with his ever-present black turtleneck and jeans. It is well known that Jobs has been the face and creative driving force behind Apple for the last 10 years, and has experienced various health issues of late, including pancreatic cancer and most recently a liver transplant. The crowd offered its approval with a standing ovation as Jobs returned to the stage. It should be a huge boost to the investors to know that Jobs is back behind the wheel at Apple.

iTunes 9
This may be the biggest announcement from the event, mainly because everybody uses iTunes — if not the store, at least to organize and play all their music. This newest version adds several new features to the popular media center:

  • Genius mixes — The Genius feature allows you to pick a song, then iTunes uses data collected from you and from its massive user base to create a playlist comprised of songs similar to the one you’ve chosen. The new Genius mixes feature creates 12 mixes for you to choose from; for instance, a soundtrack mix or an alternative rock mix. As a big fan of the Genius feature, I’m very impressed with the new Genius mixes and I think it’s a fantastic step forward.
  • Improved synching — This one is mainly for iPhone and iPod touch users. You now have greater freedom over exactly what you sync with your handheld device. Especially useful is the new Apps tab on the device page, where you can choose what apps to sync on your device, as well as organize what apps show up on the home screen and additional app pages.
  • New iTunes Store — the iTunes store now has a new and improved interface. I like it a lot. It seems to be even easier to navigate than before, which is saying something.
  • Home sharing — I haven’t tried this one out yet, but it allows you to keep your iTunes libraries synced throughout a household. If your family has music and videos spread across several different computers, you can sync them up so you can access the entire collection from any computer. Pretty cool.

iPhone OS 3.1
This one was only briefly mentioned, but a new software update for the iPhone came out this same day, fixing many of the bugs present in the 3.0 software update. After trying it out for a few days, I have had no problems with the update and my phone seems to be running fine. The software update may have also been necessary to prepare customers using AT&T to finally get multimedia messaging on September 25th.

iPod Line Refresh
As expected, Apple announced a new slew of iPods for the upcoming holiday season. Many of the rumors before the announcement revolved around a possible camera and/or video camera on the new iPod touch. To the disappointment of many, Jobs announced that the third generation of iPod touches will not include any camera features. The iPod touch line now includes three models: a more aggressively priced 8gb model for $199, a 32gb model for $299 and a whopping 64gb model for $399. Other then that, no new features were announced for the iPod touch and it remains essentially the same, except for a newer model with more storage.

The big announcement was about the new iPod nanos. The nano will retain the same form, but will now contain a built-in video camera, allowing users to shoot 30 frames-per-second video right from their portable music player. Jobs said this was a definite attempt to crack the growing market of small portable video cameras like the Flip. This announcement was surprising to many, as most expected Apple to build camera functionality into the iPod touch.

However, the move makes sense: if someone wants to buy a portable video camera and they can choose between the Flip cam, which shoots only video, or the iPod nano that plays music, videos and photos and shoots video, the thinking is they will obviously choose the iPod nano, especially considering there is almost no price difference. This will undoubtedly help Apple begin to lock down the portable video camera market and make the iPod nano a hot seller this holiday season. Look for the 4gb version at $149 and the 8gb version at $179.

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus. He got a little weepy upon Steve Jobs’ return to the big stage.

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