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Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls his company's new Shanghai store a "landmark in glass engineering."  (Source: Engadget)

iTunes 10 ditches the old icon for a new look.  (Source: Engadget)

Apple also unveiled "Ping" a new Facebook/Twitter-like social network built into iTunes 10.  (Source: Engadget)

Apple TV has shrunk substantially.  (Source: Engadget)

It also comes with a slick new UI that makes it easier to rent movies -- and a "magical" price point of $99 (though Steve Jobs avoided actually using that word to describe the set-top).  (Source: Engadget)
Steve Jobs has plenty to say, hopes to convert new customers and help TV studios "see the light"

The much anticipated September Apple event has come and gone, delivering highlights of the company's retail efforts, information on iTunes 10, and a slew of Apple TV related news.  The biggest surprises?  Apple has launched a social network and it finally has a TV box that seems competitive and compelling. 

Starting the show, Apple made a big-deal at the start of the event about its new stores.  Among the high-profile places where Apple has planted its seed are Paris, France (housed in a restored building); Shanghai, China (featuring a 40-ft tall glass cylinder over the subterranean entrance, which Mr. Jobs calls a "landmark in glass engineering"); and London, England (a "fantastic" store at "the heart of Covent Garden").

Mr. Jobs bragged of some big numbers -- over 1 million visitors at the company's stores daily; over 300 stores in 10 countries, total.  Apple puts on lessons for 80,000 customers a week, a key part of its attempt to convert people to lifetime Mac buyers.

After unveiling its new lineup -- which featured some surprises (the tiny, attractive Shuffle, starting at $49 for 2GB), some disappointments (iPod Nano with iOS and multi-touch but no camera and a smaller screen), and some expected developments (iPhone 4-esque iPod Touch revision) -- Apple turned to iTunes.

The new version of iTunes, iTunes 10 is full of surprises.  First it ditches the old hat logo for a new icon.  The biggest new feature is a brand new, integrated social network called Ping that looks an awful lot like Facebook and helps you network with others to discover music -- and make friends.  Mr. Jobs describes, "It's a social network for music. It's like Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes. It's all about music."

You can "follow" friends in Ping, check out concerts, and post your thoughts.  Apple claims that the network will offer as much privacy as you want, with complete control over who can see/follow you.  Mr. Jobs describes, "You can get as private or as public as you want, and it's super simple to set up."

The new social network is also available via app on iOS devices.  The new version of iTunes will be available today.

Mr. Jobs showed off his own account checking out pictures from Jack Johnson and posting that he was going to a Tegan & Sara/Paramore concert on September 17 in San Jose, California.

Apple does not own the domain name Ping.com -- that distinction is held by a golf club company.  So don't try to visit Apple's new social network from your browser.

As Apple hinted at early in its presentation, it had some big TV developments in store.  Mr. Jobs showed off a slide with Apple TV (introduced in Sept. 2006) which reiterated past critical comments about the device's track record, remarking, "Not a big hit... What have we learned?"

Apparently one thing they learned was that the current product was too big.  In its never ending quest for small, Apple has hacked the new Apple TV down to one quarter its old size -- small enough to grab in your hand.  Its connectivity remains largely the same -- optical audio, HDMI, USB, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and ethernet.

Apple has ditched the old silver case for a black enclosure.  It's also added a new remote.  

So what's there to watch on the sleek new Apple TV?  You can currently rent HD movies on the day of the DVD release for $4.99, unlike Netflix, which makes customers wait a certain number of days for new releases.  Apple, which has offered rentals since 2008, also revealed another compelling new offer -- TV shows for a measly 99¢.  But apparently not everyone is onboard.  Mr. Jobs comments, "Remember, these are commercial free. Now this is a big step for some of the studios to make. So we have ABC and Fox. We think the rest of the studios will see the light."

The new Apple TV rental service features a revamped UI for picking movies.  Its much more graphical and offers reviews from 
Rotten Tomatoes to help you pick the studs from the duds.

The box now can stream Netflix movies, too.  That's somewhat ironic to say the least -- Apple sells streaming video rentals, but in a bid to pick up sales, it's letting its biggest rival Netflix on its set-top box.  Users also have access to content on YouTube, Flickr, and MobileMe.  And to top it off iPad users can push content from their Apple TV to their iPad using a technology call AirPlay.

But the biggest change isn't the dramatically shrinking size, but the dramatically shrinking price.  Mr. Jobs cheers, "The price of Apple TV was $229... users said they'd like to see it more affordable. So we're gonna lower the price, from $229... to just $99."

The device is currently on pre-order from Apple, and can be found here.  It will ship in four weeks.

Will Apple's new social network and cheaper, smaller set-top box steal the show?  Or will users tune them out?  And will Apple help "the other" TV studios "see the light", as it puts it? That remains to be seen, but Apple clearly has clearly worked hard to try to guarantee their success.



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RE: Meh
By Spivonious on 9/1/2010 3:48:02 PM , Rating: 2
You cannot stream blu-rays over conventional broadband connections. The video alone averages 30Mbps, with audio adding on another 8-10Mbps.

1920x1080 resolution != blu-ray


RE: Meh
By Suntan on 9/1/2010 4:24:24 PM , Rating: 2
I think you’re overstating things a little. Most BRs I’ve scanned seem to average about 16 to 18Mbps. Further, most BRs have TrueHD or DTSHDMA tracks that tend to run around 4.1Mbps for lossless audio.

Few BRs have fully uncompressed multi-channel PCM audio tracks and few of those run with video bitrates at the max.

To say those are averages is incorrect. More accurate is to say that those are extreme worst cases.

That said, yes, very few ISPs offer pipes fat enough to stream an “average” BR.

-Suntan


RE: Meh
By corduroygt on 9/1/2010 5:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'd say the video average is closer to 20-25, 16-18 is the low end. You're right about audio.


RE: Meh
By SunTzu on 9/1/2010 6:55:53 PM , Rating: 2
Are you serious? Where i live, in Sweden, i get 100/10 (or 100/whatever i want up to 100, depending on cost) fairly cheaply, over my cable. No fibre needed at all, and pretty much every apartment in any 20k people+ city has either fiber or cable. I knew US connections sucked, but if you live in a city surely you must be able to get a 100/100 fibre cheaply?


RE: Meh
By corduroygt on 9/1/2010 7:01:37 PM , Rating: 2
Compare the sizes of US and Sweden on a map and then decide for yourself. The best I could ever get would be 50Mbit at a whopping $139 from Fios. I make do with 15.


RE: Meh
By Suntan on 9/1/2010 9:51:50 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention finding a content provider in Sweden that has licensing agreements to stream any content worth watching...

-Suntan


RE: Meh
By probedb on 9/2/2010 3:34:04 AM , Rating: 2
You're lucky, you'll find most countries don't give you that. Most people here in the UK are lucky if they can get 2/0.5Mbps ADSL!


RE: Meh
By Da W on 9/2/2010 8:55:48 AM , Rating: 4
Ok, let me explain something.
1)Those who post on daily tech = Geeks (me included). And most are apple haters. WE ARE NOT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE AVERAGE CONSUMER.
2)Apple DOES NOT targets geeks. Apple targets my girlfriend who always goes through our rich inventory of french-canadian swearing words the very moment she turns on my windows 7 PC.
3)I'm talking about the FUTURE. 10 years ago we all had crappy phone line internet connections that made crasy noise when we connected. That's only 10 years! Our cell phones are better than that now by a long shot. So don't bring me the argument that you can't stream blue-ray quality over the internet NOW, think in 2 years, 4 years, 6 years.
4)My HD tv cable only outputs at 1080i or 720p, i prefer 720p, it is good enough, and i don't give a rats ass about blue ray. And, as i said, i AM a geek.
5)For that mather would you call the Droid X a piece of crap because it does not output in 1080p?

Bottom line: Blue ray won't be the tsunamy that DVD was, and it will soon be replaced by cheap over the air internent HD streaming.
I rest my case.


RE: Meh
By hexxthalion on 9/2/2010 9:16:33 AM , Rating: 2
:) one of the best comments I've seen on DT


RE: Meh
By Hydrofirex on 9/2/2010 10:58:30 AM , Rating: 2
I completely disagree with your "bottom line". Optical formats will not go away. They are already planning for even higher resolutions beyond 1080P which streaming won't catch up with for some time. There are many factors of course, but a nice uncompressed Blue Ray looks significantly better than anything I've ever streamed online. There will also always be enthusiasts (both computer, video, and audio) who will want the absolute highest fidelity. There are more of them than you might think. While I agree that the technology will hit the 'good enough' point shortly for the masses it will still exist in a thriving ecosystem of content purchase and delivery.

Besides, there will always be a market for a physical product. People like to collect and display their media libraries.

HfX


RE: Meh
By MDGeek on 9/2/10, Rating: -1
RE: Meh
By Spivonious on 9/2/2010 2:40:08 PM , Rating: 3
1. True.

2. True.

3. 10 years ago I had a T3 connection at college. Downloading files was like copying them between hard drives. We got a 6Mbps cable connection at home one year later.

4. Just because you can't see the difference doesn't mean 720p is good enough. Do you play your games at 800x600 too? It's good enough.

5. There is no reason for a phone to output 1080p. Something that is designed to be connected to a TV (i.e. AppleTV) should.

Blu-rays versus DVDs is like DVD Audio versus CD. Not revolutionary, but definitely better when capable equipment is used. I can easily see the difference between a DVD and a Blu-ray, but I have a very nice TV and surround sound setup. I had trouble seeing the difference on my 32" TV with sub-par sound system.

Will Internet streaming take over? Perhaps, but not until the average household has a 50-100Mbps connection.


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