Jobs slashes Apple TV price, unveils 'Ping' social network

New social network for iTunes music is a 'killer' app, says analyst

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A now smaller iPod Shuffle will sell for $49, $10 less than the previous model; the iPod Nano has been shrunk 46% but sells in the same $149-$179 range; and the iPod Touch has been slimmed down.

The top-selling Touch also got a variety of new features, most of them the basis for rumors leading up to today's event.

As expected, the new iPod Touch took its cue from the iPhone 4. It sports a front-facing camera that can be used for videoconferencing via Apple's FaceTime application, boasts the same 960-by-640-pixel Retina display, and is powered by Apple's own A4 SOC (system on a chip), which runs not only the iPhone 4 but also the iPad.

The price for the least expensive 8GB iPod Touch jumped from $199 to $229, a 15% increase, but the 32GB and 64GB models retained their previous $299 and $399 price points.

"These are significant changes to the three lines of iPods," stressed Rubin. "The camera they added to the iPod Touch has a lot of potential to expand the market for videoconferencing."

The new iPod Touches will be able to conduct video-based conversations using Wi-Fi with iPhone 4s as well as with other new Touches, Jobs said.

For Gottheil, the iPod revisions were secondary to the new iTunes 10, which is slated to be available for download today. "Music-based social networking could be explosive," he argued, referring to the new iTunes-based network dubbed "Ping" that lets users "follow" both artists and friends.

Jobs called Ping "social music discovery" and spent substantial time demonstrating how artists can use it to promote their material, and how friends can discuss the music they enjoy.

"You can follow people and you can be followed," Jobs said. "Most artists will hold their hand up and say, 'You can follow me'; you can hold your hand up and say that as well, or you can say, 'People can follow me, but I have to approve who follows me.' "

"This is one of those 'Why hasn't someone thought of this before?' things," said Gottheil. "It has the potential to be a killer [application] in social networking, since there's a lot more to talk about when you're listening to the same music than there is when you're reporting what you had for breakfast."

iPod Touch
The iPod Touch announced today features the same "retina" displayed used in the iPhone 4.

Jobs also announced that iPhone and iPod Touch owners will receive the iOS 4.1 upgrade next week, and the follow-up iOS 4.2 -- which will also be the long-expected operating system update for the iPad -- in November.

iOS 4.1 will fix several prominent bugs, including ones involving the iPhone's proximity sensor, Bluetooth connections and a slowdown reported by iPhone 3G owners who upgraded to iOS 4 this summer. The upgrade also marks the debut of Game Center, Apple's multiplayer online gaming network, which was first announced in June.

The new iPods will ship in a week, according to Apple's online store, while the recrafted Apple TV is slated to ship later this month.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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