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Apple’s iTunes event was only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but did we like it?

iyawnEvery autumn, Apple has an iTunes event. We’re used to it by now – more iPod-y goodness for “back to school” and/or holiday shopping. This time around, though, there was a lot more speculation than usual.

Unfortunately, most of the speculation (and excitement) was over items that wound up not showing. Camera-toting iPod Touches? The Beatles in the iTMS? We only wish. The perennial favorite rumor, the Tablet Mac? Not even close.

So what did we get out of this particular release?

First of all, we got a new iTunes release. This mostly consists of support for the updates to the iTunes Music Store. Sharing sharing purchases among multiple computers at home was a highly-touted feature, as were updates to their Genius function, which supposedly creates “better” mixes. Also entering into the mix (no pun intended) is the iTunes LP, which apparently allows for movies, notes, artwork and other nuggets presented in a manner reminiscent of the “extras” you’d get in a vinyl LP. Improvements in iPod management and tweaks to the interface round out the major changes.

Unfortunately, this update seemed to be more about buying/renting from the iTMS rather than actual new features. Even more disappointing was that this application still remains 32-bit. While some may argue that iTunes really doesn’t need to be 64-bit, as the software that controls Apple’s best-selling peripherals (iPods/iPhones), keeping it up-to-speed (so to speak) with the current-version of OS X might be higher-priority with them.

The iPod Touch changed very little, getting a boost in size (up to 64GB) and an overall drop in price. Oh… and iPhone OS 3.1.1 is out, too, allowing you take advantage of the new features in iTunes.

The iPod Classic had even less in the “upgrades” department, with only a bump in capacity to 160GB. Fortunately, though, the price is sticking at the same $249 its been at, so it remains a viable option for those with insane amounts of music they want to take with them.

The iPod Shuffle got a little more of an improvement. While the capacity still tops out at 4GB, they’re now available in multiple colors. There’s also an “Apple Store Exclusive” model that features a “polished stainless steel” finish. On the accessories front, more headphone models compatible with the Shuffle will soon be made available.

The biggest winner of the day, though, was the iPod nano. In one revision, Apple managed to increase the display size, and add a pedometer, a microphone, a video camera, and an FM tuner. Though the capacity still sits at 16GB, the changes are a substantial upgrade.

What about all those other rumors?

Like every Apple event, there were a pile of rumors surrounding what’s to be announced. This time around, we had some big ones – often with some pretty compelling evidence behind them. Let’s take a quick look at some of them, and see how they fit.

Camera in the iPod Touch – This was a surprise. There’s a camera already in the iPhone which could fit into the Touch. Several case manufacturers leaked prototypes for the 3rd Gen. Touch with a hole in the back for a camera. Even post-show, it seems logical that the Touch should have been upgraded with a camera; after all, they added it to the nano.

So what happened? Personally, I’m going with a “supplier side” problem, requiring a retooling of the back side of the Touch and the generally lukewarm upgrade announced yesterday.

The Mac Tablet – The lack of this item was a little less shocking. Though the rumors abounded that a tablet using the multi-touch capabilities of the iPhone/iPod Touch would be making an appearance, no such thing would rear its head this time around.

Why not? My best guess – this is not going to be a part of the iPod family; it will either make it in as a portable Mac or become its own family. As a smaller computer, it will need a little more OS horsepower than iPhone OS offers. There’s already several tablet-supporting features hidden away in Snow Leopard, so this may be an indicator of where/when to look for it. As Apple won’t be at Macworld, my guess is that we will see it at CES, though the WWDC – while further out – may also be an option. Of course, if you can’t wait that long, there are always other alternatives.

Blu-ray movie support in iTunes – I really didn’t think this was going to show, but I heard enough about it that it made this list. Aside from the “rock and roll” headline implying that this event would be about music-related hardware/software, putting Blu-ray support into iTunes would not make much logical sense. The more likely place to see this support – if it ever comes – is in an upgrade to the DVD Player application in OS X. Judging by Apple’s past statements and the history of these kinds of features showing up, I’d be surprised if it shows up before OS X 10.7.

The Beatles finally come to the iTMS – This was an outside chance, but there were a couple of fairly good signs pointing to this. First, rather than holding their event on a Tuesday like they usually do, they held it on a Wednesday, which coincidentally happened to be the big Release Day for both the Beatles remasters and the Beatles Rock Band game. The second sign came on Tuesday Evening from what most would consider a fairly reliable source. Yoko Ono made a statement to Sky News in the UK – saying the entire Beatles catalog would be available on iTunes. Adding fuel to the fire, this story was pulled almost immediately. No retractions. No backtracking. Just gone. That set off many people’s hopes – after all, why hush it up unless it were true? Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed when no mention of the Fab Four appeared at the event.

Will Apple, Inc. and Apple Corps. ever see eye to eye and make the Beatles catalog available on the iTMS? Judging by Yoko’s statements, it seems that it is just a matter of time. Perhaps we need to wait for the (more lucrative) sales of the remastered CDs to slow down before we see them in the iTMS. Maybe it’ll take longer than that – it’s hard to say.

We, as Mac users and Apple supporters, follow these events with great interest. We follow the rumors, speculate on what we’ll see, and hope that there will be “one more thing” that will knock our socks off. Unfortunately, while there were a couple of interesting announcements, this particular Apple event just didn’t live up to the hype.

M. Chris Stevens
the authorOWC Chris S.
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