Let’s Rock event — live

Matthew JC. Powell
10 September, 2008
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This is the place to come for our live update of the “Let’s Rock” event in San Francisco as it happens. We’ll be bringing you text and images from the event live from 3am. As soon as we know Australian pricing and availability of any announced products, it will appear right here as part of this feed. Just keep hitting refresh to keep it coming.

Hi everyone. I’m Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell, and I’m here with Macworld Associate Editor Dan Moren. Together we’ll be liveblogging the event from the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, just next to the Moscone Center. Also here for Macworld are Senior Editors Dan Frakes and Chris Breen. Stay tuned for live coverage and photos of the event, as it happens.

And I’m AMW editor Matthew JC. Powell, shivering in an eight-degree Sydney morning at 3am to bring you the Australian perspective.

The event is about to start. If you want to read discussion of the background music, go elsewhere.

Seem to be having a bit of trouble with the image feed, but hopefully we’ll get that fixed as we go.

The lights are going down, so we’re about ready to go here. And … silence.

Steve Jobs: “We’ve got some really exciting stuff to share with you.” before we do, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” That gets a nice laugh and a round of applause. “Enough said.

“We’ll start with iTunes. Now over 8.5 million songs. Started off with just 200,000. Over 125,000 podcasts. Over 35,000 TV shows, 2,600 Hollywood movies. Over 3,000 apps for iPhone/iPod touch.

The first announcement is the addition of HD television shows to the iTunes Store. Aussie pricing as soon as it’s to hand. The good news is you’ll be able to watch it on your computer rather than having to have an Apple TV.

And NBC is returning — hurrah! Hope that includes Australia (please please please).

iTunes 8 is coming out today. A ton of new stuff in it. Here are the few main pieces: HD TV shows, as mentioned, accessibility. Built-in VoiceOver and other accessibility technologies. There are some new browsing options and something called “Genius.”

Steve’s showing off album browsing, but it’s not so space efficient, especially for when you have few tracks per album. Adding ability to look at albums by album cover, and you can also look at albums by artist (just like in iPhoto, you can skim them). And it works with movies, TV shows, including unwatched episodes, podcasts, etc.

Genius. A new feature that lets you automatically make playlists from songs in your music library that “go great together – with just one click.” There’s a button in the bottom right corner that lets you make a Genius playlist.

How’s it work? The iTunes Store is up in the cloud and they added “Genius algorithms” that they’ve developed. You can turn it on and it’ll send info to iTunes about your music library: track names, play counts, ratings, playlists (seems like a good way to build a huge library of information). It’s all anonymous; your IDs are not kept around.

10:09 PT – DM: Here’s a demo of Genius. The browsing interface looks a lot like iPhoto. He’s playing “Respect” by Aretha Franklin; classy choice. It works in Genre too, with little placeholder icons for the different music types. Can also scan albums by composer, which is nice for Classical fans. We’re going to take a look at an HD TV show—The Office. I think he’s actually showed this clip before.

Dan Frakes comments: “This is how Skynet starts. Come with Steve if you want to live!”

10:13 PT – JS: I think it’s safe to say that we are officially rocking. Right, Dan? Are we rocking now?

I’m shivering. Does that count?

iTunes 8 is available today as a free download.

Now on to the iPod. NPD Data shows iPod with 73.4% market share in U.S. Number two is actually “other”—no name brands aggregated together—with 15%. SanDisk is #3 with 8.6 and #4 is Microsoft with 2.6%.

Here are some updates and new products for holiday season. iPod classic is first up: thick and thin versions. Almost everybody has one of the thin ones, not the thick ones, so they’re discontinuing the thick one. 80 GB jumps 20 120GB

iPod nano. Shipped the first nano in 2005. Second generation in 2006, third-gen in 2007. Only three years. But we have a new iPod nano for this holiday season. And it looks a lot like the spyshots that have been going around: much taller with a larger screen.

“Best of both worlds.” Portrait aspect ratio and same display in portrait mode. Thinnest iPod they’ve ever made. Looks to be about the same height as the 1G and 2G. He’s got one in his pocket. Nice looking screen.

Tell ‘em the price, son — don’t know yet.

New curved aluminum design, and curved glass over the display. Thinnest iPod ever built, enhanced user interface, and it’s got the iPhone/iPod touch’s accelerometer. And you can create Genius playlists right on the nano.

10:22 PT – JS: It’s interesting, Apple is rolling in features that used to be more advanced or only available with add-ons, right into the product. The nano is basically the mainstream iPod now, if it wasn’t already.

Demo time. We’re playing Beck and Steve flips the iPod sideways and it goes into Cover Flow. Now he’s flipping through and picking Bob Dylan and listening to a new song. Pushing down the center button lets him start a Genius playlist based on the Dylan song. Holy crap, if you shake the iPod, it’ll shuffle your songs. “I didn’t really want to tell you that I had Dean Martin on my iPod.”

Hey, don’t knock Dino.

The nano gets a pretty nice round of applause from the audience. They’ve also got improved battery life: 24 hours of music and 4 hours of video.

They also want to be environmentally conscious: we have an internal environmental checklist that we use on everything. The new iPods’s have arsenic-free glasss, BFR-free, Mercury-free, PVC-free and highly recyclable materials. “There’s more we’re going to do in the future, but these are the cleanest, toxic-free iPods we’ve ever built.”

10:25 PT – DM: Nano-chromatic. They come in “the best colors we’ve ever done.” And yes, Steve Jobs has put rainbows in the iPod, at long last. Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, pink, and silver. And the prices: $US149 for 8GB; $US199 for 16GB. Both are shipping today; 8GB’s shipping today, 16GB should be in stock by the weekend.

We’ll have Australian pricing immediately at the end of the presentation, folks.

Let’s talk accessories: armband. New headphones have a built-in remote: pause/play, goes to the next song, and triple click it goes to previous song, and there’s volume up/down controls. That’s pretty sweet. And there’s even a mic built-in for the Voice Recording app. If only I actually liked the iPod headphones. Headphones will ship for $US29 next month.

10:28 PT – DM: New in-ear headphones. “We think we’ve finally got these right.” Ship with three sets of earbuds, 2 drivers (woofer and tweeter) in each side. Sell for $US79 in October. And here’s the new ad. “If you’d like to see it, I’d love to show it for you.” Nobody ever says “no” to that, huh? There’s apparently a black nano. Sounds like Feist, not sure. And they show the colours bleeding of all of them—that’s actually a little creepy.

Let’s move on to the iPod touch. For this holiday season, we’re making the iPod touch even better. It looks a lot like the iPhone. Same tapered back. Looks like it has external volume control. And it’s apparently even thinner than the last. Same 3.5″ display; integrated volume controls, which was the #1 request they got (including Mr. Frakes); accelerometer; wireless network; built-in speaker (really hard with something this thin—”It’s for casual listening; this is not for audiophiles.”); Genius playlist creation; and the App Store built-in. Demo time (saw a quick flash of a Nike + iPod app).

 Slight UI tweaks. They’ve built in Nike + iPod in to the iPod touch. And the iPod touch doesn’t even need the little  receiver to plug into the dock-connector port. All you have to do is get the transmitter for your shoe.

And built-in Genius playlists: tap to get the scrubber and there’s a Genius button. Tap that and you’ve got a new Genius playlist. You can refresh it or save it.

And, of course, the App Store. Steve says users have downloaded over 100 million applications. “Even more mindblowing” when you realise today is the 60th day the store’s been open.

10:36 PT – DM: Steve is loading up Iron Man, which is isn’t actually out yet, but that doesn’t stop Steve Jobs. Have to say it looks pretty good (the sound’s out of synch a little bit, though).

We’re going to talk about apps, and Steve is bringing out Phil Schiller to talk about games that aren’t out on the market.

Phil is pretty excited about games. (I wonder if this is just because Steve’s not big on games). He’s going to show off “Spore Origins” for the iPod touch; we’re looking at the creature creator. “You may not recognise me, but that’s me.” He’s changing colours, patterns, etc. “I don’t know why a single-cell organism has eyes but no brain.” Good question, Phil.

Next up is Gameloft’s Real Soccer 2009. Brand new game that’s just starting to ship today. He’ll show us US vs. Italy. Pick your stadium, environment, uniforms, etc.

Brings out the actual players. They’ve overlayed a D-pad and two buttons on top, but it also has gesture support. He shoots, he scores! And instant replay. Wow. That goalie is terrible. “Italy needs a new goalie”.

USA just scored against Italy at football? Something’s not right in that game.

Now a version of EA’s Need for Speed Undercover. “I’m a Porsche guy, I’ll go for that Porsche.” Now we’re going to transport a package by way of … underground speed racing. Of course.

Phil uses his Nitro button, but he wipes out. Uh oh, the cops are on the scene. Now he’s ramming cops. “Kids, don’t try this at home.” That’s coming in November.

Not-so-hidden message of this lengthy demo: The iPod touch (and iPhone) make awesome game machines for you to buy this Christmas. Plus, it’s an iPod! And a video player! For those who don’t know, Apple’s holiday financial quarter is gigantic every year, because the company sells approximately a gazillion iPods at the holidays. This event is the official kick-off of that holiday sales season, and the games make it even more of a gift item than it was before. Apple is preparing for another big holiday season.

Steve’s back out to recap. It works with those new headphones. The battery life is 36 hours of music and 6 hours of video. And environemntally, the checklist looks a lot like the nano: arsenic-free, BFR-free, Mercury-free, PVC-free, and highly recyclable. Millions of songs, thousands of movies, hundreds of games: “This is the funnest iPod ever.”

Steve Jobs continues to innovate with the English language.

3 models: 8GB goes for $US229; 16GB for $US299; 32 GB for $US399. That’s right: 32GB. All available starting today. And a new ad: which pretty much appears to just show off games. And a wee bit of music.

Let’s talk for a minute about the software on the devices. New iPod touch has 2.1 software. If you have a first-generation touch, you can get version 2.1: it’s free upgrade from 2.0. If you haven’t, it’s $9.95 to update from 1.x. The updates are available today. If you have an iPhone, there’s a 2.1 software update as well.

It’s a big update: it fixes lots of bugs: fewer call drops, significantly improved battery life, not as many crashes, backing up to iTunes is “dramatically faster.” And some new performance enhancements as well. Free to all iPhone owners, and it’ll drop on Friday.

And all the people in the crowd who have watched the lives drip away as they back up their iPhones applaud.

Steve thinks it’s the best line-up they’ve ever had and the best version of iTunes they’ve ever had. Ready for the holiday season. Is that it? Or will there be…

And the musical guest is Jack Johnson, who’s apparently the number one selling male artist on iTunes. I’ll take your word.

10:51 PT – JS: It’s all that “Curious George” music, Dan. But the real question is, is Jack Johnson ready to rock?

10:52 PT – DM: Yes, Jason. I think he’s prepared to rock in a decidedly acoustic fashion.

Remember that one time when they had U2 at one of these? No-one had to be told U2 sells a lot of music …

Still waiting to find out about Australian pricing on all this stuff — the second I have it, you will have it.

Jack says thank you. “Seems kind of weird that I’d be the number one, with U2 — maybe they don’t count because they’re a band and I’m a guy with a name.” “I don’t know, I’m used to kind-of 20-something girls right here. I’m doing my best…”

So he had the same thought I did : “who in the world is Jack Johnson?”

Steve comes back out to pose for a photo-op and give Mr. Johnson a round of applause.

And that appears to be a wrap. We’re done here. No “One more thing”, but there’s plenty to like in that new iPod line-up. We’ll of course have more for you on those just as soon as we get our damn dirty paws on them.

Australian pricing:

iPod nano: 8GB for $199, 16GB for $299. (That’s pretty much a straight exchange-rate conversion.)

iPod touch: 8GB for $329, 16GB for $419 and 32GB for $549.

And iPod classic: 120GB for $339. Wow. Remember when it was $1045 for 5GB?

Anyway, thanks for reading. We’ll have more on these new products in the very near future.

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