Liveblogging from Apple's music press conference Septemeber 2008

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apple-rock.jpgSo ladies and gents, here I am in London, England, in a functional, if unspectacular, business centre that Apple has hired out for the day to bring us their conference and vision for the near future. As we’ve all expected, the focus of the event looks to be the music side of their business and I’m sure I’d be very excited by the “Let’s Rock” slide I can see on the screen at the front if Kevin Rose hadn’t broken the news about iTunes 8 last week.

It’s a rainy day outside and the hall is half full of journalist from all over Europe and half full of Apple’s guests who will doubtless whoop and applaud at every announcement. To my right is Shiny Shiny’s Susi Weaser complete with nasty cold and husky tones . Say hello, Susi. She says hi.

There’s a general hubbub, the lights have gone down and typing is going to get tricky without an illuminated keyboard. Here we go.

So far we’re being treated to the classic propaganda talk of exactly how much market share that Apple has – a lot – how well the iTunes store is doing – well – and that they’ll be opening more Apple shops over Europe including Bristol. Congratulations Bristol.

Ok, so the warm-up guy’s done and now we’ve got Steve live on screen. He’s cracked a gag about the reports of his early demise being premature. Very funny.

So, iTunes. Ubiquitous and large says Steve. It’s got 8.5 million songs, 2,600 movies and 3,000 apps for iPhone and Touch; over 65 million accounts of credit card one click shopping, making them the No.1 in the US.

So, new today is that they’re adding Hi-Def shows for $2.99. NBC is coming back to iTunes with all the shows they bring – Heroes, the Office (Yanky version) and others all in Hi-Def.

Ok, now Steve’s talking iTunes 8.

They’re adding an album cover grid, the same as Zune has been doing, and this works for movies and TV shows and everything else too. Now comes the Genius feature we’ve been expecting too. The idea is to create playlists with just one click.

It works by using Genius algorithms that learn from all the information you feed back anonymously; all the ratings you give songs all the songs you chose to buy, your library in general and all of this is added together with all the other iTunes users out there. The idea is that with 65 million users, it should be able to give you a fairly accurate taste of what you want to hear. Here comes the demo…

Ok, so Steve’s launched it and it hasn’t crashed. Good start. He’s playing Aretha Franklin. Nice touch. Ok, so now he’s picked John Meyer, chosen ‘Gravity’, pressed the Genius button and instantly created a list of songs that match his initial choice. It seems to have worked. Now he’s done the same with Elvis’s Heartbreak Hotel and it’s pulled up Pretty Woman, Wild Thing and, actually, they all go very nicely together. Ok, now I’m hooked. No more scrabbling for CDs back at mine trying to entertain after a few too many down the pub.

Ok, so iTunes 8 – ready to download now.

The iPod

The iPod has 73.4% of the market. Other has 15.4%, Microsoft has 2.6% and SanDisk the rest. They’ve sold 150million to date.

iPod classic will now come in the thin version and for the same price the 80GB version will be upadted to 120GB – 30,000 songs. That works out at £179 including VAT.

The new iPod Nano looks rather like a Zune and is the one we’ve seen the plans for already. It’s the thinnest mp3 player they’ve made, or do I mean an AAC-player? It’s an oval-shaped design and from what I can see on the screen, from the one Steve’s holding, it does look very thin.

It’s aluminium cased with curved glass and it comes with the accelerometer from the iPhone, plus you can also create Genius lists on it too. So far it only seems to use the iPhone technology for turning between portrait and landscape. It’s by holding down the central button that you activate the Genius function. You can now also use it to record voice notes.

Steve;s giving us a demo and this time he’s picked Beck. I wonder if this is what he likes or he’s got his PR guy on this? I’ll give him credit this time. He’s gone back to Bob Dylan, now Dean Martin and ooo nice feature – there’s another use of the accelerometer called “Shake to Shuffle”. Can you guess how that works? Don’t like the song? Shake your nano and it shuffles.

Battery life is 24 hours for music and four hours for video.

In terms of the eco-factor, they’re now more recyclable and less toxic than ever. Good.

There’s serious murmus now because the Nano’s getting a whole wave of new colours – “Nano-chromatic” they call it. Amazing how it’s the colours that stir up the interest. The 8GB version will be available in next few days for £109 – ouch! – and the 16GB for £219.

They have accessories now too. Belkin, and Griffin must be quaking in their boots. They’ve got the usual arm bands plus a remote on the headphones cable and a microphone on it too. Mercifully, they’ve got new headphones too at a blinding $79 and for that you get two drivers in each bud – a woofer and a tweeter.

We’re now being treated to the new Nano ad showing off all the colours in a kind of paint splash way. Nano-chromatic is the theme.

Now the iPod Touch. It’s got the same 3.5-inch display but it’s thinner. They’ve added the volume control into the side that everyone was both expecting a craving. They’ve built in a cheap speaker for casual listening and the Genius features and iTunes connectivity too. They’ve beefed up the UI and added that Nike + feature that was around a while back as well. And we thought that was a hoax. There you go. Put the receiver in your shoe and you’re ready to run.

He’s got “Strange Brew” on his Touch. Damn it, I really like this guy’s music taste. So, how come he’s still tucking that black polo neck into his jeans?

User have downloaded over 100 million apps from the app store and that’s only in 60 days. That’s a lot. The store is available in 62 countries.

Ok, now he’s picked Green Day to demo the Touch – “American Idiot”. If that was a joke, nobody laughed. Ok, unless I’m mistaken, the playlist created for American Idiot had Purple Haze on it. Not sure they go too well together.

Steve’s invited Phil Schiller on stage, the head of products and marketing, to demonstrate some new games. The first they have to announce is Spore Origins, developed specially for the app store. It’s the early stages of the full Spore game with a few twists.

Next up is Real Football and, although the game is designed for machines with a d-pad, it allows you to interact with virtual controls on the touchscreen.

Lastly is Need For Speed from EA. Phil’s flicking through all the usual menus. All these games look really good.

The Touch has 36 hours of music playing battery life and six hours of video. Like the Nano, it doesn’t contain arsenic less weapons grade Plutonium than ever before. The 8GB version will cost £169, the 16GB will be £219 and finally a 32GB model for £289. All will be out in a matter of days, if not already.

Here comes the ad. It’s all about the games. That seems to be what they’re pushing after the success of the app store.

There’s new software for the Touch. The 2.1 version is free for the 2.0 Touch but will cost $9.95 if you only have 1.x version touch. The 2.0 software is also available for the new iPhones with a lot of bugs fixed. Fewer dropped calls etc. It’s free from Friday. Sounds well worth it.

So, that’s the products. Now Steve is introducing a special guest. Oh no. It’s Jack Johnson – apparently the most downloaded artist on iTunes. Such damning praise.; universal appeal. There’s something really ugly about this footage of Jack Johnson playing away under the Apple logo. This’ll haunt him.

I don’t know if it’s the mollifying music from the Hawaiian folkster’s strings, the sight of Steve or maybe Apple is pumping happy gas into the auditorium but, actually, I’m sold. It’s easy to bitch about Apple’s monopoly but, you know what, I quite fancy getting myself a Nano. They look really good and that Genius function; I’d have that any day. Oh Steve. Steve, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I ever doubted you. I’m sorry Steve.

Related posts: A closer looks at the new Apple products

Daniel Sung

One thought on “Liveblogging from Apple's music press conference Septemeber 2008

  • This post is different from what I read on most blog. And it have so many valuable things to learn.

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