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Apple Remixes the iPod and iTunes

Attention, readers who have been asking if it's the right time to buy a new iPod: It now is. Yesterday Apple updated its line of media players, as Mike Musgrove outlines in today's story.


For my taste, the upgraded iPod nano -- available in a choice of nine colors at $149 for an 8-gigabyte model or $199 for a 16-GB version -- once again looks like the most attractive option. The new model has a larger screen which changes orientations from portrait to landscape depending on whether you hold it vertically or sideways, which should make it a much more palatable option for video viewing.

That accelerometer also lets you shuffle the playback order of songs just by shaking the iPod. (I hope I don't see too many overeager users of new iPods accidentally chucking their prized possessions into the sidewalk or the trees.)

And one other thing: The new nano now includes a "spoken menus" option that makes it accessible to people with impaired vision -- a first for the iPod line.

The updated iPod touch, meanwhile, gains the physical volume controls it always needed and now starts at $229, making it much more competitive with the iPhone's pricing (one colleague told me yesterday that she'd buy that and stick with her existing cell-phone service instead of getting an iPhone). The revised iPod classic, however, doesn't offer much beyond a price cut and a slimmer figure; given the plummeting price of flash memory, I wouldn't be surprised to see that it's the last hard drive-based iPod Apple sells.

The other half of the expanding iPod universe -- and the part you can try now -- is iTunes. Apple shipped iTunes 8 yesterday, a free download for Windows XP and Vista and Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5.

The new version installed fine on a Mac this morning, although I had to wait a few minutes for it to process my music library. The big difference is its new default "grid view" -- instead of presenting a long, spreadsheet-esque list of songs, it now shows thumbnails of your albums (if you've used iPhoto '08's Events view, this should all look very familiar).

[iTunes 8's visualizer]

You now have yet another way to dig into your music -- a "Genius" mode that, if you let Apple analyze an anonymized copy of your playlist, will suggest other songs you might like to buy from iTunes. (Think of Pandora's automatic music recommendations, but with a cash register attached.) Unfortunately, the Genius recommendations don't distinguish between higher-quality, unrestricted iTunes Plus purchases and the regular, lower-quality, usage-restricted downloads.

(Although Apple announced that the iTunes Store now stocks 8.5 million songs, two PR reps didn't know how many were iTunes Plus downloads this morning. I'll update this post when they can get me that number. Update: Apple spokeswoman Teresa Brewer e-mailed Thursday to say that "iTunes Plus accounts for approximately half of the overall music library.")

On the video front, the iTunes Store now offers high-definition downloads of TV shows for $2.99 each. Unlike Apple's HD movie downloads, HD TV downloads don't come with any extra usage restrictions beyond those applied to all TV and movie downloads from the iTunes Store.

The selection of TV shows once again includes programs from NBC, which seems to have come out of its sulk and realized that it can, in fact, make good money off iTunes.

One of the neatest features I've seen so far in iTunes 8, however, has nothing to do with buying anything online. It's the new visualizer you can invoke when playing your music -- a trippy, spaced-out creation Apple had the good taste to buy from a third-party developer.

Have you installed iTunes 8 on any machine of yours? Share your impressions here...

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 10, 2008; 10:24 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Mac , Music  
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I upgraded to the new iTunes package and it's pretty nice. The only thing I have to say about the Genius setup is that it's not really as fun as Pandora, since it's really more of a selling gimmick. But it is pretty fun to play around with now!

Posted by: C. Williams | September 10, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob: Do you know if Apple will provide a discount on HD programs that customers already bought in SD? I'm particularly interested in "Californication," which I purchased last month and now available in HD. Thanks. -- Rob

Posted by: Rob | September 10, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

thak u 4 makin meh read this

Posted by: zoe | September 10, 2008 1:31 PM | Report abuse

While I like the new grid view it's not fantastic for those of us who may have acquired our MP3 libraries the old-fashioned pre-itunes way (let's be delicate, here) and therefore don't have the album art to go with all our music. Other than that, I like genius for now, and I approve of NBC's return to the fold.

Posted by: Abigail M. | September 10, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

You can easily download the album artwork by right-clicking on the album and selecting "Get Album Artwork". I love the new Grid setup, it's more like my good ol' CD wallet with the covers.

Posted by: Josh Todd | September 10, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm surprised that iPods still don't have built in speakers.

Posted by: larry | September 10, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Quick question:

If I update to iTunes 8.0, will I still be able to view my songs in the old "spreadsheet-esque" way? I currently don't have any album artwork saved to my computer to save space, and I don't want to bother with uploading all those files.

Or does the artwork even take up much space?

Posted by: David G. | September 10, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I have been using the new itunes for a day now, and it is really great. I have not bought anything yet, but the genius feature is awesome, and especially the way it recommends songs and artists that you do not have yet. I used to have to access the store to do that, now its just on the side whenever I want it. Though their overall show was not great, and the ipods were nothing truly special, they are cheaper now, and the new itunes is fantastic

Posted by: matt | September 10, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

how visualizers factor into listening to music is totally beyond me. So, you're listening to music and what, you sit there and stare at the "trippy" screen. Let's put the development resources towards something that actually improves the music management features of the software. Not one of the neatest features by any stretch of the imagination. One of the most misguided and useless. Please.

Posted by: matt renna | September 10, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Two main observations about iTunes 8: The Genius gimmick is ok, but not quite what the promos say. The first time I used it, I already had EVERY song in their “suggested” buy list. My main aggravation, however, is that Airtunes no longer broadcasts to external speakers. Since there are already LOTS of blogs on this issue, I'm hoping they'll fix it soon. Meanwhile, thanks to TimeMachine, I just restored my previous iTunes App (and iTunes Library). If you haven't updated to iTunes 8 already, and if you count on multiple speakers through AirTunes, WAIT!!

Posted by: gigiliz | September 10, 2008 2:25 PM | Report abuse

You can go to and click on images to get your album artwork. Type in the name of the band/singer and the album title. Copy and paste it into your song. Best of all its FREE!

Posted by: Jake | September 10, 2008 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Yes, you can still view your songs the old way. This is just a new way to view them. I've found the Genius feature works well. You can hide the "suggested buy" panel and just use it to make playlists from your own library.

And the new visualizer looks fantastic.

Posted by: Gustav | September 10, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Many of my CDs that I ripped myself did NOT have album artwork available through iTunes. It is my understanding that if Apple does not offer it for sale, they don't have the artwork either. You're better off going to Google, click the Images search and search for your album artist. Find a good copy of the album, right-click and copy, then go to iTunes, select all the songs oc the album you're working with and get info. Paste the album cover in the Album Art area on the right and save.

Try to select album art that is between 100x100 and 300x300 and less than 40kb in size.

This process takes time, but when you have all your albums done, Cover Flow looks awesome!

Hope this helps.


Posted by: Drew | September 10, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I downloaded it this morning and I love it. I like that Genius will search your library and make a suggested playlist. You have the option of accepting the playlist or rejecting it if you don't like the suggested songs. I also like that it recommeneds other "hot" songs from the artist that you have in your library. This has been great for songs that I like by an artistist but couldn't remember the name of the song.

Posted by: Sherri Campbell | September 10, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

No problems downloading iTunes 8.0. Love the Genius feature and the grid format for music and podcasts!

Posted by: Lewis | September 10, 2008 2:44 PM | Report abuse

I would like to know how Apple has managed to elevate their new product announcments to national news. I have nothing against Apple or the Ipod but the media treats new Apple products as if they were unprecidented new technology involved. When the Ipod came out there were already many many MP3 players that could do everything an Ipod could do. The Ipod video was actually a serious step back in technology, with that unusable micro screen. My son loves new technology and was as excited as anyone about the Iphone, but while he was watching the commercials he realized that his 1 year old windows mobile touch screen phone could do everything the Iphone did, and more (had 3G and the ability to install outside applications).

Does the new Ipod actually do anything that is worthy of a Washington Post article?

Posted by: captbilly | September 10, 2008 2:52 PM | Report abuse

To the above poster: Wow, someone thinks he/she is very self-important. Apple announcements may not be news to you, but it is for millions of people around the world, which is why the Post is covering. Not only that, this paper has a long history of covering tech news, so this is also relevan to them. And CNN. And Associated Press. And other global news outlets with apparent space to waste on news that don't meet your standards.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 10, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

For people looking for an easier way to get album artwork that iTunes can't find on its own, have a look at this Help File item I wrote last year--it describes a few different programs that automatically fetch cover art for your music.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 10, 2008 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I assume artwork takes space. How do I get rid of artwork on a Windows XP system?

Posted by: RP | September 10, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Captbilly, it seems to me that this whole Apple announcement was overly hyped, and now perhaps the media feels a need to satisfy everyones desire for 'Apple' news. I mean seriously, if HP releases a new notebook with twice as much ram for 50 buck less in a few new configurations, would we get this much press coverage? Why so much coverage over not much of anything new? Perhaps the journalists themselves get free IPODS for hyping it up the way Pharma companies give incentive vacations to Doc's for prescribing their meds. Who knows, but it seems to me that wide scale media coverage like this should be reserved for REAL product advancements, not just upgrades, makeovers and price restructuring.

Posted by: Eric P | September 10, 2008 4:33 PM | Report abuse

In response to matt rena:
Visualizers work well for people like me who have their computers hooked up to their plasma TVs, and want to listen to music while avoiding "plasma burn." Its a lot more interesting than a screen saver, to be sure.

Posted by: RyanTB | September 10, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The Genius Playlist is excellent. How many times have you been listening to a song no your ipod, been in that mood for more of the same - and now BAM, instantly, playlist created! For those people who are past the age of 15, and have a busy life, and no time to scan every song to make that perfect playlist, this is the perfect solution!

Posted by: HB | September 10, 2008 5:02 PM | Report abuse

captbilly: Any change to a product used by countless millions of people is big news... Changes to marginal products is... much more marginal

Posted by: Bamm | September 10, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone know how to export a playlist from one pc to another and keep their current song ratings?

Posted by: VividIntent | September 10, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Re visualizers: " Not one of the neatest features by any stretch of the imagination. One of the most misguided and useless. Please. -- Posted by: matt renna"

I see. Because you personally don't use a feature, it is "misguided and useless."

Posted by: nephilim2038 | September 10, 2008 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I just installed iTunes8, and it seems to have eaten all my music, all my playlists, everything. Any ideas where it went or how to get it back?

Posted by: PR | September 10, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

PR: check out the support material on It's 99% certain that everything is still there, you just have to tell iTunes where to find all the files again. If necessary, you can lug your Mac to an Apple store for help.

A question to other posters: I've read that iTunes 8 has poorer quality sound that earlier versions. Has anybody noticed that? Thanks.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | September 10, 2008 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Hi, a quick question about Shake to Shuffle to the new Nano users: is there an option of switching it off, for instance if you go running? Thank you!

Posted by: Kat | September 11, 2008 5:38 AM | Report abuse

The new iPod touch has integrated speakers.

Posted by: bob | September 11, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm not blown away by the Genius feature in iTunes, but the Genius feature in the Touch software upgrade is terrific. I did not expect to use it at all, but yesterday I tried it while a good song was playing, and it served up a great playlist that perfectly combined songs that I had not thought to group together. I've been getting tired of my self-selected playlists and am looking forward to having Genius shake things up for me.

Posted by: jane | September 11, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Anybody else running into the Blue Screen of Death when you plug your iphone into a Vista machine with itunes 8? Some kind of bug in the new software I guess ... slashdot and everybody else is covering it, with some fixes. The take-away from what I've read is that if you've got an HP printer or Roxio software on your machine, you'd better wait for Apple to work everything out with 8.1

Posted by: Adam | September 12, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

running windows xp pro - updated to itunes 8... big mistake!!! the new program has a bug - kills your ethernet drivers. cannot connect to internet anymore!! did a system restore to fix ethernet issue, but itunes won't work at all now. can't synch iphone or itouch ipod now. apple is denying problem - but it is widespread if you read blogs

Posted by: Shannon | September 12, 2008 12:39 PM | Report abuse

So Apple claims that "iTunes Plus accounts for approximately half of the overall music library"? I doubt it. Scanning their Store, I'd say the number is one third at best. Anway, it is certainly a far cry from the 100% non-DRM selection at the MP3 Download Store.

Posted by: Mixxer | September 12, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Kat: yes, you can turn off the shake-to-shuffle command (which I have confirmed will interpret air-drumming as you wanting to shuffle playback). Go to the Settings screen, select Playback, and then Shake.

- RP

Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | September 12, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Downloaded the new iTunes yesterday. Owner of an iPod "classic," which apparently will be going the way of the dinosaur any day now. :)

I like the concept of the iTunes genius, but I don't know yet if I like it in actuality. It keeps telling me I need songs I already own. Which has already become annoying after only one day. And it's obviously designed to make you buy, buy, buy more songs. Right now I would classify it as clever, but not necessarily genius.

I think the new nanos are nice, but at present I can't justify replacing my perfectly good dinosaur.

Posted by: NW DC | September 14, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the 160 gig Classic version that I currently have is GONE! Classic is now 120 gig only.

I was hoping for a new 320 gig version as I need the room.

Posted by: Sasha | September 15, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I just downloaded the itunes 8. It seemed to work just fine, except that some of my album covers are missing. The funny thing is, that the album artwork can be seen on my list, but when I sync my ipod it will not transfer the artwork over. This was no problem with the previous version of itunes. How can I fix this? I have tried deleting and reinstalling the artwork. I also have multiple computers and have tried using another pc and still the same outcome -- no artwork transferred. Why did it transfer some and not others. Is there a better way of doing this?

Posted by: Evelyn | September 16, 2008 10:16 AM | Report abuse

i'm a bit of a newbie, but 2 questions re: itunes

1) downloaded itunes 8 and i miss the aforementioned "spreadsheet-esque" list of songs in my music library. i like to look at the individual list of songs in my library. is there ANY way i can get it back so i can view it the old way?

2) is the new "visualizer" about which i've been reading basically just the fact that i can see the covers of the albums when i open i tunes?

again, i'm new at this, so be nice to me!!!

Posted by: jl in ct | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

i'm a bit of a newbie, but 2 questions re: itunes

1) downloaded itunes 8 and i miss the aforementioned "spreadsheet-esque" list of songs in my music library. i like to look at the individual list of songs in my library. is there ANY way i can get it back so i can view it the old way?

2) is the new "visualizer" about which i've been reading basically just the fact that i can see the covers of the albums when i open i tunes?

again, i'm new at this, so be nice to me!!!

Posted by: jl in ct | September 16, 2008 6:59 PM | Report abuse

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