Before the event even began, the audience gave a standing ovation to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who recently received a liver transplant. Jobs has been out of action for some time, and speculation over whether he’d speak at the conference was almost as furious as rumors there would be an announcement pertaining to the Beatles’ catalog coming to iTunes. (More on that later, and thanks to Gizmodo and Engadget for their coverage of the event).
First up, iTunes 9. The latest version of the world’s most popular digital music service — Jobs told the crowd that song downloads recently topped 8.5 billion — will not only boast a cleaner look, it will also house over 30,000 ringtones from all four major labels for $1.29 each. Additionally, Apple, using user-submitted playlists, has updated their Genius feature, giving users access to better mixes drawn from their own libraries. “The Genius database has gotten smarter and smarter. They’ve enabled us to make Genius playlists. Well, we’re applying that same tech to something new called Genius Mixes,” Jobs said. “Imagine a genius DJ that plays endless mixes of songs from your library that go great together. You just click on one of the mixes, and start playing it — and it will go on and on and on. It’s like a great radio station.”
The coolest addition to the music service, however, is iTunes LP, or the long-rumored “Cocktail” project that Rolling Stone previously noted. The plan is to reproduce the forgotten thrill of rummaging around the artwork and liner notes of an LP, except on your computer screen. iTunes LP albums will boast artist photos, lyrics, liner notes, full artwork, videos and much more, essentially reinventing the album art. The Grateful Dead’s American Beauty, the Doors’ self-titled and Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King were among those albums whose iTunes LP features were shown during the demo. Other new iTunes features include the ability to manage Apps on your iPhone, share your iTunes contents and Apps with up to five computers in your home and a better ability to Sync your media players.
Now let’s get to hardware: The Apple Store accidentally let the details slip when they prematurely updated their site with new models and new prices, according to MacRumors. (Apple jumping the gunâ€¦ where have we heard this before?) iPod Touch models saw their storage double as their price tags remained the same: 8 GBs for $199, 32 GBs for $299 and 64 GBs for $399. Contrary to rumors that Apple was killing off the old school models, Apple also introduced a sleek new model of iPod Classic that holds 160 GBs — or 40,000 songs — with the same price tag of the previous 120GB model, $249. Apple also remained committed to their tiny iPod Shuffle by introducing a new model with new colors for new prices. And then there’s the iPod Nano, which will have a little surprise built into their backsides: video cameras, as Apple attempts to compete with the current Flip cameras. Plus, Nano will also sport FM radio. The 8 GB model will run for $149, will for $30 more you can get the 16 GB model.
After showcasing the new iPods, Grammy Award winner and recent Ryan Adams collaborator Norah Jones took the stage to perform a song from her upcoming album. Judging by the album artwork that was displayed behind Jones prior to her performance, it’s safe to assume her new album will be called The Fall, and the iTunes LP-bound cover will feature the singer wearing a top hat while sitting next to a basset hound.
As for the rumored announcement that the Beatles were coming to iTunes — despite the conspicuous scheduling of the Apple conference on the same 9.9.09 release date of the Beatles’ remasters and Rock Band — there was no mention of the Fab Four’s catalog would be available on iTunes, meaning fans will still have to pick up the new remasters the old fashioned way: At 7/11s and Restoration Hardware stores.