Apple talks music with revamped iPod Nano

Steve Jobs took the stage at San Francisco's Moscone West expo center promptly at 10:00 AM Wednesday morning, to thunderous applause from the crowd.

"Today we're here to talk about music," Jobs said.

"We've distributed 600 million copies of iTunes so far, and customers have bought and downloaded over 3 billion songs from iTunes. iTunes is the number one online music store in every single one of the 22 countries it operates in," he explained. "We started with just 200,000 songs and we have over 6 million songs in every single one of those stores."

Jobs told the audience that the iTunes Store -- now the number three music retailer in the U.S. behind Wal-Mart and Best Buy, carries over 550 television shows and has sold 95 million TV shows to date. The service features links to over 125,000 podcasts, with more than 25,000 of them featuring video.

"This last stat I want to share with you blew my mind. In the US, of all the music releases in 2006, 32 percent were digital only releases," said Jobs. "They were not released on a CD. Wow. Look how far we've come: A third of the music released in this country was not on a CD. So that gives you a feeling for how far we've coming in the last 5 years in the digital music revolution."

Jobs revealed that Apple plans to release a new version of iTunes on Wednesday evening that will support the products that are being announced Wednesday-- the biggest new feature in iTunes will be ringtone support for the iPhone.

"We're going to do ringrtones in our own special way," explained Jobs. "And, of course, these are for the iPhone. And what we want is rather than having someone make ringtones for us, we're going to make a custom ringtone maker. We're going to build it into iTunes, and you can make ringtons from many songs available on iTunes including some songs you've already purchased."

Jobs compared iTunes ringtones to the competition, which cost up to US$2.49. "Our ringtones, make 'em yourself, you pay another 99 cents to make the ringtone," he said."

Jobs demonstrated how the new feature works using Aretha Franklin's classic soul number "Respect." All of the songs on the iTunes Store that are "ringtonable" will feature a bell icon column in the music list. You click on the bell, the ringtone maker pops up, and you can click and drag to find the part of the song you want to use as a ringtone. iTunes creates a new file in the ringtone folder, and a new tab in Tunes then lets you decide what to sync to your iPhone.

Jobs played "Give peace a chance," and then added, "That's [for] when NBC calls," referring to Apple's recent dispute with the TV network, which said it will end its partnership to publish shows on the iTunes Store in December.

iPod news

Jobs said that Apple has sold 110 million iPods to date. "The place when the sales curve is strongest is the holiday season," said Jobs. "We're approaching the holiday 2007 season and we want to get ready."

"Today we're going to refresh or replace every product in the lineup," said Jobs.

The iPod shuffle is being updated with "some really nice new colors," said Jobs. Apple is also adding a Product(red) shuffle model, with proceeds going to help fight diseases in Africa.

"Now let's move on to something more substantial: The iPod nano," said Jobs.

The iPod nano is the most popular music player in history, said Jobs. People love it, he added, but Apple wanted to make it better based on customer feedback. New features of the redesigned iPod nano include the ability to watch video on a larger, brighter display. The new iPod nano also features Cover Flow, the ability to scroll through album artwork visually. What's more, the new nano also has games support, more storage features and a full metal design.

The redesigned iPod nano comes in five colors -- red, black, silver, blue and green. "It's incredibly tiny, it's incredibly thin," said Jobs.

The iPod nano now features a 2.0-inch display that features the same resolution as the previous-generation full-sized iPod: 320 x 240 pixels. "We've achieved this with a screen with the highest pixel density we've ever shipped: 204 ppi," explained Jobs. "And the screen is just gorgeous. We you see it you're going to really love it."

The user interface has been enhanced on the iPod nano -- the left side has the traditional iPod menu, and on the right, a preview of what you're selecting. Jobs also indicated that the new iPod nano ships with three games -- Vortex and Sudoku were both named specifically.

Jobs demonstrated the iPod nano playing video by watching an episode of The Daily Show featuring John Hodgman, the actor who appears as the PC in Apple's "Mac and PC" television ads.

Jobs said the new iPod nano provides 24 hours of audio and five hours of video playback on a single battery charge.

The redesigned iPod nano comes in two versions -- a 4GB version in silver, for $149, and 8GB version in colors, for $199.

"These new nanos have left our factories already. They shipped today, they're on planes, they should be in stores by this weekend," said Jobs. "'A little video for everyone'" is our new line.

The 'classic' iPod

"Now the iPod's got a funny name," mused Jobs. "It's just called 'the iPod' because it was the first one. We though, 'It's time to give it a name.' We're going to call it the iPod classic."

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