After a call from Melo in which the highlight was "what? they're talking about future products???" (boy, is it weird to see Steve breaking his own rules) I've been watching the webcast.

And what's all the fuss about, I hear you ask?

  • Wow, Steve is wearing a shirt. With proper lapels. Mark my words, we'll see him in a white turtle neck yet. And the prolonged suspense at the end (with a number of "one more things") shows that he knows how to make fun of his own presentations.
  • iPod on steroids. Nerds will get hung up on the battery life, but I prefer the new search features, and it's interesting to see that they're branching out into games - it won't put Nintendo out of business, but it is something I had wondered about before. Like many other things Apple could import from the mobile market, games just make sense (and yes, that means they'll build a number of distribution agreements they can leverage if they ever launch an iPhone).
  • Anodized nanos. Guess these won't scratch as easily, huh? I might even get one myself - if it turns out that the new models works with the Camera Connector (which isn't likely). The ad is very spiffy, by the way, and Apple's use of black to denote top-of-range is something to note.
  • A much smaller Shuffle. No mention of gapless playback on it, but it would be nice for when you... er... don't shuffle. Nevermind. I'm definitely not keen on the idea of having to dock it, though - the built-in USB connector makes a lot of difference to me.

640x480 At Last

Wow, iTunes now has a blue icon. Blu-Ray conspiracy theorists will love that.

But what I do love is the cover art service - considering that signing up for the ITMS is the main custom acquisition barrier for casual/impulse music purchases, providing free access to a humungous cover art library is a wonderful ploy to boost sales - and watch out for Steve showing a chart of exponential growth of ITMS accounts next year.

The bundled installer/iPod status display is neat, and the content syncing is something that was a long time coming, but I found my attention waning during the "automagic" playlist/iPod management.

One thing I really liked to see was CoverFlow being integrated into iTunes, including video stills. I have a feeling it won't work right with my DAAP server (iTunes never managed to load album art from DAAP servers properly, and it keeps breaking mt-daapd in subtle ways), but I'll know that when I bother to update.

Update: mt-daapd 0.2.4 seems to work fine with iTunes 7.0 - and this is a biggie for me - including retrieving cover art from songs on the server (which includes having the cover art appear in Quicksilver). Sadly, though, CoverFlow is disabled for shared music.

Anyway, I welcome the boost in video resolution - which I hope to be able to take advantage of once the ITMS figures out how to sell US TV and movies to Portugal (which, given our current lack of decent TV programming, might be a surprisingly active market). And yes, I'm skeptical of Portugal being included (for TV or Movies) in 2007.

Pricing for both TV and Movies seems sensible at first glance, although I haven't the faintest idea of current video-on-demand pricing in the US, or how cheap discount DVDs are. And yes, I consider this as something that competes with VoD, even if I don't really buy the "start watching after 1 minute" line.

I wonder if people who purchased earlier shows in smaller res will get rebates, though. And there seems to be no way for you to burn your shows to DVD, or a sensible backup option.

Update: Mark on... Apple Software Update... for Windows. Oh boy.

Apple TV

The iTV, of course, is the biggie here. I have no recollection of Steve ever talking about future hardware products (although there were a few hints dropped around back when he was trying to foist the NeXT on to people).

No matter how popular iTunes TV and movie downloads are, not everyone wants a computer under their TV (no matter how quiet it turns out to be), and no-one wants to fiddle with audio and video adaptors.

No, people want their media center hardware to come with the right kinds of cables and plugs out of the box, and to be absolutely silent.

The interesting thing for me (having watched Windows Media Center crash and burn time and again) is that a dedicated box makes a lot of sense, and the emphasis on built-in everything (power supply, USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, HDMI, RCA audio, etc.) shows that Apple is sticking to the "media hub" approach they inaugurated with the AirPort Express - the Mac as your home entertainment server, but without changing the way you enjoy your media (music anywhere, TV on your couch, etc.).

Bring it on - it's the perfect way to get rid of all the junk underneath my TV set.

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