Apple today announced iTunes 10, a major upgrade to its music jukebox and media management software. Leading the changes in this version is a social networking component aimed at helping users discover new music.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs described that feature – called Ping – as “Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes.” A major new social component of the iTunes Store, Ping is an opt-in social network that lets customers follow their favourite artists, and be followed by friends. Artists can also interact with their fans on their iTunes Store page. You can create a “circle of friends,” view what your friends are buying and listening to or watching, post your thoughts and opinions on artist and album pages, keep track of more than 17,000 concert listings, and mark which ones you’re going to (though the concert listings may be US only, at least to begin with).
Ping will also be available on the iPhone and iPod touch as a new button in the iTunes Store app.
iTunes 10 also gained a new hybrid view that reorganises the way the application displays album art in music columns. For albums with more than five songs, iTunes can display an album icon and take up no extra space or require the window to be expanded.
Apple has also rebranded its AirTunes streaming system, which allowed users to play back music from their iTunes library on speakers connected to their AirPort Express or Apple TV, to AirPlay. More interestingly, the company has opened the system up to third parties such as Denon, Marantz, Bowers & Wilkins, JBL, and iHome.
Apple also decided it was time to move on from the CD icon iTunes has previously used, and introduced a brand new disc-less version – a sign of the digital format’s growing popularity.
We’ll have more details on the iTunes update later today.