Apple Shows Off New iPods, TV

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Every time Apple comes out with a new product, the world stops for a little bit to watch what it will be. Tuesday was no exception.

Steve Jobs’ keynote address— his first public appearance since the iPhone 4 announcement — was no exception. On the agenda: new iPods, new operating system, new iTunes and a revamped Apple TV.

Jobs began the meeting by rattling off the features in iOS 4.1, the updated operating system for the iPhone that will launch next week. Among them was HDR photo capture, which takes three versions of a picture and uses algorithms to combine them into one sharp-looking image that removes overexposure and brings objects out of the shadows. It also adds Game Center, an app for multiplayer gaming, to the iPod Touch and iPhone. Jobs demonstrated the app by bringing two developers from Epic Games on stage to battle it out in their new game, Epic Sword. There will also be an iOS 4.2 coming in November, which finally brings mobile printing to the tablet.

Next up was the new fleet of iPods, including the updated iPod Touch, now so thin that it will cut your toes clean off if you drop it – just more than 7 mm thick and weighing 3.5 ounces. It also features the same retinal display found on the iPhone 4, as well as front- and rear-facing cameras. It retails at three price points: $229 for the 8GB, $299 for the 32GB, and $399 for the 64 GB. There’s also a new iPod shuffle that reintroduces the buttons missing from the last iteration and retails for $49; and a tiny iPod Nano that replaces the click wheel with multitouch functionality, boasts 24 hour music playback, and retails for $149 (8 GB) and $179 (16 GB). The new Nano has been getting good early reviews from tech sites who have had a hands-on with the device, with Engadget raving, “Super thin, super light, and really, the capacitive multitouch works very well.” All three iPods go on sale next week.

Jobs also reinforced Apple’s roots in digital music distribution and networking, introducing the newest version of iTunes (we’re at 10 already), which is available now for download at Apple.com. The real attraction here is the inclusion of Ping, which Jobs described as “a social network all about music.” In a nutshell, Ping allows you to “follow” friends and musicians to see what they’re listening to, and groups of friends can form networks to share music suggestions. Jobs took particular care to preemptively discuss privacy concerns, noting that Ping is optional for iTunes users and emphasizing the ease with which users can approve who is able to follow them. In this respect, he seems to be learning the lessons of Google Buzz, which earned Google a lot of heat when they incorporated it into their Gchat client without fully explaining the privacy options.

Last but definitely not least was Apple TV, an update of a product that never quite caught on when it was introduced three years ago. This time around it’s a quarter the size, sells for $99, and allows you to stream video, music, and photos from your computer or mobile device to your TV. It will be released in four weeks, according to Jobs.

Users will be able to instantly rent HD movies from the iTunes store the day they’re released on DVD for $4.99 a pop, and TV shows for 99 cents. For those Netflix subscribers unwilling to go back to $5 rentals, take heart: The new Apple TV supports Netflix instant streaming. While it’s not going to replace your cable box – at the moment only Fox and ABC are on board for TV rentals – it has a lot of promise.

So readers, what are you most excited for? Will you be joining Ping or grabbing one of the new iPods? Let us know in the comments section.

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