RealTime IT News

Jobs Laughs Off Health Rumors, Talks New iPods

Steve Jobs and new iPod nano
Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Source: Reuters
SAN FRANCISCO -- For a man widely rumored to be in poor health, Apple boss Steve Jobs was all jokester.

How did the CEO handle the accidental publication of his obituary last month? By walking on stage, here at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, with the famous Mark Twain quote "Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated" displayed on the screen behind him.

The crowd ate it up -- not surprising given the loyalty of Apple's fans and the large number of its employees in the crowd. Jobs, whose health has garnered far more speculation in recent months than he would probably have liked, looked thin but his voice was strong and he was energetic on stage.

Probably the biggest news of the show was a truce with NBC/Universal, which had a rather loud, public split with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) last year over a dispute over pricing for the shows it sells on its iTunes service. At that time, NBC Universal television programming made up an estimated 40 percent of the video downloads on iTunes.

As a result, shows like "The Office," "Monk," "Battlestar Galactica," "30 Rock" and "Heroes" will begin appearing on iTunes in the coming weeks.

Jobs also said iTunes now features more than 8.5 million songs, more than 125,000 podcasts, 35,000 television shows, 2,600 movies and more than 3,000 applications for the iPod Touch and iPhone, and that it has more than 65 million user accounts.

Equally huge was the revelation that users downloaded more than 100 million applications from App Store, the e-commerce service that sells applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The App Store launched only 60 days ago.

Jobs also showed off iTunes 8, a significant update to the client software. Apple is adding high-definition content to its library, as well as a recommendation feature called "Genius lists."

The feature -- which appears as a sidebar in iTunes -- scours a user's iTunes library to create playlists of similar music. It also can tell the user about albums they don't yet own by an artist they like, and also recommend music by similar artists for purchase on iTunes.

The technology is similar to that of Pandora.com, an Internet radio station that plays music based on other artists a visitor likes.

"That Genius bar on the side of iTunes is going to drive a lot of music sales," Van Baker, a research analyst with Gartner, told InternetNews.com after the event.

One thing not showing up: the rumored iTunes subscription service.

As for the iPod family, the 80GB iPod Classic is being bumped to 120GB in capacity while keeping its thin form factor. It will also sell for $249, the same price as the 80GB product. Meanwhile, the 160GB iPod Classic -- the thickest of any iPod model -- is being discontinued.

The iPod Nano got the biggest redesign of all products. It has been lengthened noticeably from it solder, square form factor to give it a widescreen display, when turned horizontally. Apple has added voice recorder software and a microphone, so it can be used to make recordings, and it has a unique way of activating random play: just shake it to begin listen to a new song.

This provided another opportunity for Jobs's stand-up routine: "I really didn't want to tell you I had Dean Martin on my iPod," he said, as Dino played.

Jobs called the new Nano the "cleanest, most toxic-free iPods we've ever built," as it is totally free of arsenic, brominated flame retardants, mercury and polyvinyl chloride -- making it more fully recyclable. He promised more iPods would be constructed similarly in the future.

The new Nano has improved battery life as well, with 24 hours of music playback or four hours of video playback on a full charge. Prices are $149 for the 8GB version and $199 for the 16GB version. It will come in a full rainbow of colors, plus silver.

The iPod Touch, which looks very much like an iPhone, received its own revamp and is now even skinnier. It now has an integrated volume control button -- the No. 1 request from customers, according to Jobs. Battery life has been extended to support 36 hours of music or 6 hours of video on a full charge.

It also will support building a Genius list on the device, so you don't need iTunes, and will come with App Store built-in.

The iPod Touch will come in three models: the 8GB will retail for $229, a $70 price cut, while the 16GB model will sell for $299. A new, 32GB model, also made its debut and will retail for $399. All three are available today, Jobs said.

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