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Details about Apple's new iPods, iTunes and Apple TV

SAN FRANCISCO -- After Wednesday's media event, Apple afforded journalists a little time to inspect some of its new hardware and quiz its PR reps. Here's what I was able to learn from that, and from catching up on stories from other reporters afterward.


iPods: With this revision, Apple has shrunk the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle down to their interfaces. The former has shriveled down to its screen -- and lost its video playback and recording capabilities -- while the latter has been built around the smallest possible ClickWheel dial. The new Shuffle looks easier to use than its predecessor, but I'm not sure about the revised Nano.

The updated iPod touch, meanwhile, didn't capture every feature of the iPhone 4. The new version incorporates the smartphone's faster A4 processor and 960-by-640-pixel "Retina Display," but its cameras don't match its big brother's hardware. The back-facing camera, usually the more powerful one, only captures video at a 720p resolution (that is, 1280 by 720 pixels) and records images at a still-lower 960-by-720 fidelity.

The iPod classic and its internal hard drive aren't dead, formally speaking, but they might as well be. Neither model has changed this year; in a year, flash memory's declining costs should erase the Classic's price advantage.

iTunes 10: The most striking revision here is its new icon -- the CD or DVD backdrop is gone. Otherwise, you might easily confuse the updated program with a 9.0 version of iTunes.

I would like to speak to the Ping social networking option wired into this release, but I can't. The searches I've tried have yet to unearth friends using this. On the other hand, iTunes 10 hasn't been available to the public for more than a day or so.


But I can report that iTunes 10's suggestions for artists to follow seem wildly off-base. Here are its first 14 recommendations, in the order displayed to me: Lady Gaga, Yo-Yo Ma, Katy Perry, U2, Jack Johnson, Linkin Park, Taylor Swift, Linkin Park, Coldplay, Shakira, Mark Ronson, Dave Matthews Band, Diddy, U2.

I have bought about as much U2 releases as you'd expect for somebody of Irish ancestry, but otherwise those suggestions could not fall further off the map.

Another possible problem awaits in Ping's privacy settings. It defaults to showing every song, album or artist you like or suggest, and to having every interested person follow you.

Apple TV: The updated Apple TV is the hardest thing to assess, mainly because of how Apple ignored earlier versions of it. Will other online video sources -- say, Amazon or -- show up on its on-screen menu later on, or will Apple silently decide that the Apple TV's doors are shut?


The new Apple TV could be easily duct-taped to the back of an HDTV, except that would stop its iPod-esque remote from working. Even its Apple logo is easy to miss, as the photo here might suggest.

But with its limited capabilities, this won't be kicking cable boxes out of a job anytime soon. Apple built this to complement your existing TV-tuning hardware, not replace it. That should be clear if you set aside the sense of "we were here first!" in blog posts and statements from developers of competing, more ambitious media receivers from Roku and Boxee.

(10:50 a.m. To correct a little confusion about this point, the new Apple TV isn't limited to media streamed from the Internet; it can also play media off your own computers over your home network, including iTunes TV and movie purchases.)

What if Apple succeeds in this strategy? That's the most unsettling question. Apple's victory in digital-music distribution was a win for listeners, too; most music hardware and software on sale today can play an iTunes download. But Apple's new video streams require using Apple's products.

That's why I was happy to see Apple's two major network partners in its video-rental venture, ABC and Fox, move to sell -- not rent -- episodes for 99 cents each on Amazon.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to try out Apple's new gadgets, software and online offerings. What should I look for as I do that? Post your review suggestions in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  September 2, 2010; 8:31 AM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Music , Video  
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Next: Samsung, Toshiba show off Android tablets to rival iPad


Actually the updates to the IPOD Touch are the most useful change for me. With a camera and microphone on it now, I assume unless Jobs "Jobs" me for all my purposes it can now serve as an Iphone using local wifi and I don't have to use the crappy ATT network or pay for one of the outrageous data plans. No, I won't be able to use it driving in the car but I actually try to focus on "driving" while driving in the car. Probably change my voice plan to Virgin Mobile, get a cheap phone and use their $25/month all inclusive plan. Who says that isn't progress?

Posted by: blackbear336 | September 2, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The iPhone 4 only does video at 720p as well:

Posted by: ShawnDC | September 2, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

One question. Will I be able to watch Met Reader (The Metropolitan Opera streaming service) on the TV using the new Apple TV. If I can its a buy.

Posted by: Sausca | September 2, 2010 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Please take a close look at the new AirPlay. I have an Airport Express hooked up to my home theater so I can get music off my iTunes and play it there via the iPhone remote app. Now with the AppleTV I should be able to play right off my iPhone with no need for another Mac up and running with iTunes open. If I get an Apple TV, what should I do with the Airport Express (it is just a network extender, not base station)? Will AirPlay work with the Express? Can I play directly to it off my iPhone, or will it still only stream from iTunes? It is also unclear if I stream from an iPhone or iPad via AirPlay, can I still control the content from the iPhone or iPad, or must I then use the Apple TV remote. I even hear AirPlay will be an open standard to third-party stereos, speakers, etc. A whole-house audio system may have just become a whole lot easier and a whole lot cheaper.

Posted by: RG19 | September 2, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I am considering a TV over the Internet option. For now, I only get the free broadcast channels through a DTV box into my ancient tube TV. The prices I was quoted for cable/FIOS seemed high, which I didn't understand until I read the following article:

Buried in the middle of the story:
"Cable and satellite companies depend on customers like Dunn and Brodkin to boost video sales. Increased video revenue is necessary for them to maintain their mid-30 percent profit margins,"

30%! Are you kidding me?!? That was all the proof I needed to be convinced that real competition has not yet come to cable TV. Yes, I'll definitely look at Apple when I finally get around to upgrading my TV.

Posted by: augrim08052010 | September 2, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I suspect everyone got the same list of suggested Artists to follow, as this was day 1 of the new product and not all Artists are setup to be Followed. Where you expecting to see The Beatles in your list? :)

Posted by: upland_bill | September 2, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

I'm all set to plunk down $99 for the new Apple TV - it's just too cheap and easy a way to stream video already on my desktop to the TV, thus liberating me from my private on-demand purgatory of either sitting uncomfortably in front of a monitor in the basement or squinting at an iPhone or iPod. The Netflix and TV rental capabilities are just frosting, which I may or may not ever get around to using.

Posted by: JohnDorsey | September 2, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Funny - the "artists to follow" list I got was almost identical to yours. Perhaps Apple is starting off by suggesting popular artists, as opposed to figuring out what you might actually be interested in.

Posted by: gumball83 | September 2, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I bet there are only 13 artists to follow so far.

Posted by: ShawnDC | September 2, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I think you should have highlighted these aspects of the new Apple TV, Rob:

• One can still buy content from the iTunes Store, a wiser policy for favorite series.

• One can stream Netflix content with it Apple TV. (The overly critical are seeing Netflix as a competitor, when in fact, it is a companion, at no extra cost.)

• A step or two is eliminated for watching content purchased on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. You don't have to move it to a computer or Apple TV. Nor do you need to cable or dock your iOS device with your HDTV. Just stream away.

The thing I want you to look into with Apple personnel is whether the new streaming option, software based, will also apply to current versions of Apple TV. Storage and streaming at the same time would be sweet.

Since Amazon's video offerings are available on only PlaysforSure handheld devices, I don't think the 99-cent offer for maybe 300 items will be that popular. Actually, it draws attention to Amazon excluding Apple devices, including the iPad, in a negative way.

Posted by: query0 | September 2, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Rob -

I'd love to know if Apple TV will stream anything that you can stream on your computer - specifically, can I stream MLB.TV directly or from a stream that I have running already on my MacBook. Thanks!

Posted by: cheapirish | September 2, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Rob -

I'd love to know if Apple TV will stream anything that you can stream on your computer - specifically, can I stream MLB.TV directly or from a stream that I have running already on my MacBook? Thanks!

Posted by: cheapirish | September 2, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

Well FINALLY it looks like Apple has made the iPod touch worthwhile enough to make those of us who like standalone PDAs quit haunting eBay in case one of our Palm OS PDAs finally dies the death.

Too bad about the still-image resolution, tho. (Less than a megapixel? Come on...) Guess I will have to keep my Canon P&S handy.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | September 2, 2010 9:41 PM | Report abuse

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