As suspected, Apple has unveiled a new line of iPods, with the range including the long awaited touch-screen iPod and the controversial new look nano. Apple also revealed that you'll be able to buy music via iTunes directly from the device.
The launch event I attended was held at the BBC TV Centre, and was slightly peculiar in that I was in a room with large number of others, all watching on a large screen, a live feed of Steve Jobs presentation at the Moscone Center in San Francisco - all a bit Meta. Afterwards, the press was invited backstage for some hands-on ‘touch-time' with the new iPods. Bottom line - they're pretty damn nice.
In reverse order of how Steve Jobs presented it, I'll start with what was the star of the show, the ‘iPod touch'. This is a flash based player and will be available in either 8GB or 16GB capacities. As suspected it's essentially an iPhone with the phone bit taken out (it couldn't just call it the ‘i' though) and Apple has made the most of this by making it a mere 8mm thick. Wow. As Steve himself put it, "We think it's one of the seven wonders of the world". I think he likes it.
You get all of the lovely multi-touch goodness that the iPhone provides, so you can swipe, flick and flip through your music, videos, pictures and podcasts to your heart's content. The display is 3.5in wide, has 320 x 480 resolution and is, of course, perfect for Cover Flow.
Sneakily, Apple has retained Wi-Fi, in 802.11b/g flavour and just as with the iPhone, has pitched watching You Tube videos as a killer app. Hmm. You also get Safari, so you can browse the web. To round off the package, Jobs announced that you'll be able to access iTunes and buy music directly from the touch. You'll then be able to sync with iTunes on your PC next time you connect. In addition there will be specially customised versions of the Google and Yahoo search engines, no doubt to fit the dimensions and resolution of the screen. Also, in a thinly veiled dig at Microsoft and its Wi-Fi equipped Zune, Jobs said, "we've put Wi-Fi in a portable music device, and made it usable".
Battery life is given a 22 hours for just audio and five hours for just video.
Jobs also announced a deal with Starbucks, where when you go into a Wi-Fi enabled Starbucks store, an icon will appear automatically on the touch. From there it will tell you the track being played in the shop, and the nine previous ones, all of which you'll immediately be able to buy and transfer over to your touch via Wi-Fi. You'll also be able to use the Starbucks Wi-Fi to access iTunes for free while in the cafe. Starbucks is planning on upgrading all of its US stores to support this over the next two years, but there was no mention of plans for Europe.
US pricing was announced at $299 for the 8GB, and $399 for the 16GB, (£199 and £269 in the UK). Unlike the iPhone, the touch will be shipping worldwide, though you'll still have to wait a bit longer to get hold of one. Indeed, though the release date was only given as "before the end of the month", the online Apple Store let it slip by listing September 28th as the shipping date.