John Paczkowski

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Apple Unveils New iPods, iTunes Social Network, Video Rentals

Steve Jobs held court this morning at Apple’s traditional September music event, unveiling goodies like a refreshed lineup of iPods; Ping, a new social network built into iTunes 10; and an updated Apple TV, with support for TV and movie rentals. Also announced was iOS 4.1, with a multiplayer Game Center, High Dynamic Range photos and HD video uploads over Wi-Fi.

The complete liveblog coverage:

9:34 am: John, Kara and Adam are here waiting for the doors to open at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for the start of the event.

9:54 am: Packed house today as these events often are. Seated in the theater, we’re treated to another variation on the Jobsian playlist: The Beatles, Clapton, etc.

9:58 am: A first “take your seats” warning. There’s a piano stage right, presumably for today’s musical guest. Long shot speculation in the audience that it may be Lady Gaga who was reportedly spotted on the Apple campus about 2 weeks ago.

10:00 am: Jobs takes the stage at 10 AM sharp to enthusiastic applause.

10:00 am: Job recognizes his “partner in crime” who’s in the audience today: Steve Wozniak.

10:01 am: And with that, we’re off. First a quick retail update. Jobs discusses Apple’s new stores in Paris and China, notes that the latter with its massive glass cylinder is a monument to glass engineering.

10:03 am: On to London. Another slick store in Covent Garden, Apple’s 300th. Jobs notes that Apple now has stores in 10 countries and will soon add an 11th — Spain. “We’re seeing 1 million visitors to our stores on some days, several days a month.”

10:04 am: “Our stores are bringing a lot of new users into the Mac family,” says Jobs, noting that about half of Mac purchases are made by first-time Mac buyers.

10:05 am: Moving on now to iOS devices. Apple’s shipped 120 million iOS devices since the first iPhone launched, says Jobs, adding that Apple is activating 230,000 iOS devices a day. “People throw out a lot of numbers about how many devices they’re activating per day,” he says. “We are doing 230,000 activations a day. …We think some of our friends are counting upgrades in their numbers … and we think we are ahead of everyone — if we were counting upgrades, our number would be WAY higher.”

10:06 am: “200 apps are downloaded from the App Store every second … we’ve got over 250,000 apps in the store and over 25,000 of them are iPad apps,” says Jobs. “Today we’re introducing iOS 4.1.”

Among 4.1’s features and updates: bug fixes to proximity, Bluetooth, etc. TV show rentals, High Dynamic Range Photos …

10:08 am: What’s an HDR photo? Job explains that it’s a camera that takes 3 photos in quick succession — one that’s normal, one that’s underexposed and one that overexposed and then melds them together into a better photo.

Some examples appear behind Jobs on screen and they do indeed seem much improved over the typical iPhone photo.

10:09 am: On to Game Center. “Game Center is all about multiplayer games,” says Jobs. It’s about playing games with your friends and if you don’t have any friends, it will find some for you to play with.”

10:11 am: Job’s invites Mike Capps, president of Epic Games to demonstrate a new Game Center game. The game’s called “Project Sword.” Like Street Fighter but with armor and swords. Very impressive in its detail. Game play includes demonstration of “boot-to-the-face” which goes over well with the audience.

10:14 am: Demoer is getting is ass kicked by his assistant. “This is what I get for bringing a designer with me to demo a game” Project Sword will be available for purchase in time for the holidays.

10:15 am: iOS 4.1 will be available for iPhone and iPod touch next week.

10:15 am: Now a sneak peak at iOS 4.2 for iPad. “This is all about bringing everything in iOS 4.1 to iPad,” says Jobs. “We’re also adding support for wireless printing.”

Printing is managed via a Print Center app.

10:16 am: Also coming in 4.2 Airplay — a new version of Airtunes that allows streaming of not just music to mobile devices, but pictures and videos as well.

10:17 am: Jobs demonstrates multi-tasking on the iPad. Plays some Jack Johnson tunes, checks e-mail, browses the Web. All pretty seamless.

10:18 am: Demonstrating Folders now. Works exactly as it does on iPhone. “We love these features and when can’t wait to get them on the iPad,” says Jobs. “So when is 4.2 coming out? November. And it will be free for all iOS devices.”

10:19 am: “And now I’d like to get on to today’s entree: the iPod,” says Jobs. “How many iPods have we sold? 275 million. … One of the secrets to the iPods success is that even though the iPod has a very high market share, we never rest on our laurels, we try to improve them for our users. And this time, we’ve gone all out. … It’s the biggest change in the iPod line ever.

10:21 am: Onscreen the evolution of the iPod shuffle from candybar to its latest buttonless iteration. People missed the buttons, says Jobs. So we’ve added them back. New shuffle looks alot like the second generation shuffle, but with a clickwheel. 15 hours of battery life. Comes in 5 different colors. 2GB for $49.

10:23 am: “Now let’s look at the iPod nano,” says Jobs. Again an overview of evolution of the device’s design.

“We wanted to make it smaller, and there’s only one way to make it smaller and that’s to remove the controls. And there’s only one way to control a device like that — touch. The iPod nano is now multitocuh based.

10:25 am: The new nano is 46 percent smaller and 42 percent lighter than its predecessors. 29 hour battery life. Supports Voice memos, Genius mixes, built-in FM radio. Clock.

10:26 am: A quick demo of music discovery. Jobs scrolls through the device’s library, pulls up an Ella Fitzgerald song. Navigation seems relatively easy despite the small screen size. Scrolling, swiping all work well. Screen also supports rotation via touch.

The new Nano comes in the same colors as the shuffle, plus two more — graphite and red. $149 for 8 GB, $179 for 16 GB.

10:30 am: Moving on to the iPod touch now, which Jobs refers to as the “iPhone without the phone.”

“The touch has become the most popular iPod,” says Jobs. “… Even more importantly, it’s become the #1 portable game player in the world. The touch outsells Sony and Nintendo’s portable offerings combined.”

1.5 billion games and entertainment downloads to the iPod touch alone.

10:32 am: Here’s the new iPod touch. Same form factor, but significantly thinner. It’s also been updated with Apple’s Retina Display and Apple’s A4 chip — the same one that powers the iPhone.Also on board a front-facing camera and FaceTime support for video chat. HD video recording. 40 hours of music playback.

10:33 am: The 8GB is available for $229, the 32 GB for 299 and the 64GB for $399. Pre-orders begin today.

10:36 am: And here’s the new ad campaign — iPod touch “All kinds of fun.”

“This is the strongest line-up of new iPods we’ve ever had, “says Jobs. “But as you know iPods are part of a great duet with iTunes … People have downloaded 11.7 billion songs from iTunes, 450 million TV episodes, 100 million movies, 35 million books. 160 million accounts world-wide.”

10:38 am: Jobs continues: Today we’re excited to introduce iTunes 10 … And we’re giving it a new logo. Since digital sales are outpacing those of analog music, we figured it’s about time we ditch the CD graphic.”

10:39 am: Focus of iTunes 10 is about discovery — “what are my friends listening to? what concerts are they going to?”

There’s really not a good way to do that, says Jobs. So we’re introducing Ping — a social network for music that’s built right into iTunes.

Bad news for MySpace …

10:41 am: You can sign-up to follow people on Ping just as you would on Twitter and it generates a custom top 10 chart of the music they’re listening to.

Interesting. Jobs has now mentioned Lady Gaga 5 or six times as he lists of examples of music and concert discovery. Maybe she’s not such a long-shot musical guest after all.

10:43 am: “Ping is for social music discovery and you can follow people and be followed,” says Jobs. There are privacy restrictions though — a “Circle of Friends” feature that limits sharing to a specific group of users.

“You can get as private or as public as you want and it’s simple to do it.”

10:44 am: Jobs begins his Ping demo. he scrolls through some tour photos that Jack Johnson’s been uploading. He posts a comment, scrolls lower and notices that a friend has posted something about a new song he likes. “I can purchase the song simply by clicking on it … and I can click through to see the entire album.”

Another mention of Lady Gaga, who — you guessed it — has a page on Ping and has evidently been uploading concert videos to it

10:48 am: A few more Ping pages — Yo-Yo Ma, Apple PR queen Katie Cotton, and Jobs himself.

“Now, Ping is not just available on your computer,” says Jobs. “It’s available on your iPhone and your iPod touch. … Ping: it’s a social network for music that’s built into iTunes and it’s available today.”

10:50 am: And here it is. One more thing …

10:50 am: “Actually, it’s one more “hobby”,” quips Jobs. The product: Apple TV, of course.

Jobs notes that since it’s introduction, the Apple TV hasn’t done as well as Apple had hoped. “We’ve sold a lot, but it’s never been a huge hit.” Neither has any competitive product, he adds.

“It turns out people don’t want a computer on their TV,” says Jobs. “They already have computers. They go to their TVs for entertainment — not for another computer. This is a hard one for people in the computer industry to understand, but it’s really easy for consumers to understand. They get it.”

“What do people really want,” asks Jobs. ” They want Hollywood moves and TV shows — not amateur hour. They want everyhting in HD. They want lower prices, they don’t want another computer and they don’t want to think about managing storage. They don’t don’t want to sync to their computers, they just want to watch TV … and they want this device to be silent, cool and small. … So we made something new for them.”

10:53 am: “We’ve created a new version of Apple TV. … It’s about a fourth of the size of the original.”

New Apple TV has HDMI, ethernet and a power cable — only.

10:54 am: Interesting. “We’ve gone to the rental model on this … there are no purchases on Apple TV. We’ve gone to a rental-only model and because of this, there’s no need for storage. You simply stream everything from your computer, there’s no syncing.”

10:55 am: Content?

First run HD movies for $4.99, day-and-date of DVD release.

HD TV show rentals: 99 cents and still commercial free.

10:56 am: “Now this is a big step that not all the studios wanted to take, so we’ve got Fox and ABC taking it with us now and we expect the other studios to follow,” says Jobs. “… And if you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can stream Netflix movies to Apple TV.”

10:57 am: Quick overview of the UI. Elegant. Interface now includes tomato ratings from Rotten Tomatoes. Easy previews. Viewing generally begins in a matter of seconds, says Jobs.

10:59 am: Also supported by Apple TV: Flickr, YouTube, Mobile Me.

“All these things and it all comes out of this little box,” says Jobs. “It’s amazing.”

11:00 am: The demo continues. Jobs browses Iron Man, looks over some customer reviews, Robert Downey Junior’s CV and then rents the movie. After a second or two the movie begins. Jobs scrubs ahead to a battle scene. Video quality is impressive.

11:02 am: Jobs edits his Favorite list. He notes that there’s a new episode of Glee, clicks to purchase and plays it. Moving on now to Internet content. First up Netflix. Jobs checks out his Instant Queue. Among the movies listed there: The Matrix and Lethal Weapon 4 (Lethal Weapon 4?!?)

11:04 am: Now a demonstration of the device’s slideshow feature. Standard stuff and about what you’d expect.

11:05 am: Jobs circles back to Airplay and explains that you can use it to stream movies from other devices to Apple TV.

11:06 am: He begins playing Pixar’s Up on and iPad, pushes a button and streams it to the Apple TV.

“Your going to be watching a movie on your iPad, come home, press a button and continue watching it on Apple TV.”

11:07 am: Looks like Apple TV is getting a new price as well. Wow. Apple’s dropped the price from $299 to $99. Pre-orders begin today. The device should ship in about 4 weeks.

11:08 am: Now a recap of today’s announcements: the new shuffle, a new nano, a new iPod touch with FaceTime — “The strongest line-up of iPods we’ve ever had, a new iTunes, with Ping a social network for music and finally a new Apple TV.”

11:10 am: “We started doing this music stuff for a really simple reason: we love music. And even though we;re a little more successful now than when we started that love hasn’t changed one bit….

Looks like today’s musical guest is not Lady Gaga, but ColdPlay’s Chris Martin.

11:12 am: Chris Martin takes the stage … “This probably the toughest closing gig I’ve ever had. I don’t have any new products to announce … anyway, I’ll just play one song and then another and another until you feel like lunch.”

11:21 am: After a few songs, Martin pauses: “I’m not sure what to do … is Steve around to tell me what to do next …We’re moving on now to Coldplay 2.6 … this one has a lot a features, multiple chords that our competitors aren’t yet aware of …. it’s in the chord of ‘i minor'”

11:23 am: My colleague Peter Kafka weighs in on Ping: “Well, there’s Facebook’s music service. It’s run by Steve Jobs.”

11:24 am: A few more media tidbits from Peter via Twitter

— Fox statement sets limit on $0.99 iTunes rental trial “working with them over the next several months to explore this innovative offering.””

— Disney statement on 99 rentals much less reserved than Fox. No timeline or “experiment” mentioned

11:25 am: Looks like that’s it from Martin. He leaves the stage to a standing ovation and Jobs returns.

“Thank you for coming. I hope you’re as excited about this stuff as we are … and we’ll see you soon.”

And that’s it. The event ends.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik