Apple's grand plans: iTunes, movies, iTV, home entertainment Appleised…

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Steve Jobs delivered a speech yesterday that initially sounded like a basic product and software update but became a glimpse at Apple’s plans for moving into the living room. Here’s the highlights:

iTunes 7

We expected an upgrade to the iTunes software. Available to download right away, the software better manages music and other digital media (most of which we can’t get hold of in the UK yet). There are new views to display your music by track, album or virtual CD rack. Apple have offered anyone with an iTunes store ID free album art downloads, so long as that music is in the store of course.

The virtual CD rack looks pretty good, assuming you get a decent amount of album art – otherwise it looks a bit empty.

An aside, though, is that I’ve found both iTunes 6 and 7 crash out on an Intel Mac when trying to run the visualiser. Hopefully that’ll get fixed in an update, unless it’s something to do with my setup. Anyone else noticed this?

Movies

We also expected the iTunes Store to begin selling movies in earnest. What we got was something that seemed to show that deals are still to be done, and there could be licensing problems. Apple have managed to get Disney-owned studios on board (hardly surprising). Oh, and just to make us jealous, this is all US only at present:

Today, there are 75 films online from Walt Disney, Pixar, Touchstone, Miramax. Apple will be adding more each week and month. Downloads will reach near DVD quality (at least for a NTSC DVD) at 640×480 resolution. Steve Jobs cited a 30 minute download on a 5 Mbps broadband connection.

New releases will cost $12.99 for the first week, then $14.99. Many other titles $9.99. Steve says that they hope to go international on this from 2007, and that iTunes movie releases will be on the same day as the DVD.

New iPods

Read about the new Shuffle, nanos and 5G iPods.

iTV

The ‘one more thing’ this time is the iTV (working title) – Apple’s planned entry into the centre of your living room.

Steve built up to it by talking about getting movies and TV programmes on your iPod and your computer (a Mac of course, he said he was biased) – but how about when you want to watch movies on your new big screen flat-panel TV (who doesn’t?)

The solution? iTV – a box half the size of the Mac Mini that acts as a set top box in your home cinema setup, and wirelessly or via Ethernet streams digital content from your Mac or PC. It’ll have a built in PSU, USB, Ethernet, 802.11 wireless technology (G or draft N is not clear), optical audio and HDMI ports, and RCA stereo audio. It will have an advanced Front Row system and use the Apple Remote.

Now, assuming that content is coming from your computer, and that content is available, there’s no reason why this can’t be released in the UK at the same time as the US – sometime in Q1 of 2007.

Apple don’t usually do these advanced announcements, but it does make sense as a taster because the other announcements weren’t that cutting edge and on their own (with or without John Legend playing at the end of the show) might’ve been a letdown – that’s one problem of all the pre-event hype.

What do you think to these announcements? Will Apple make a bigger impression in home entertainment and gain control of your TV?

Andy Merrett