MacWorld 2008: Part One (iTunes, iPods, iPhones & Apple TV)

Steve Jobs says he has four things on his mind tonight - here are the first three.

So what does MacWorld 2008 have install for us…?

I’m blogging the event this year so this write-up will follow the order of announcements, not categorise by importance (it will also test out whether that leaked keynote speech was up to snuff.

At this point (16:55) we’re still waiting for the man himself but we have learnt that Apple plans to virtually double its number of Premium branded resellers up to 516 by the end of the year (still no chance they’ll be allowed to sell iPhones though).

Mac sales growing at 3x global PC sales and iPods remains number one in 11 countries (60 per cent market share in UK). Blah, blah…

17:14 Jobs take the stage (late) at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. “There’s Something in the Air…”

Four things he wants to talk about:

*1. Leopard, 5m copies sold in fist 90 days – most successful release to date. Almost 20 per cent of install base upgraded so far. Office Mac 2008 now shipping (we knew that already) – last of the big apps to go native on Intel.

‘Time Capsule’, a companion product for Time Machine – wireless backup hard drive with Airport Extreme with 802.11n integrated. Can backup multiple Macs. Pricing is pretty good at $299 for 500GB and $499 for 1TB. It’ll be out next month.

*2. iPhone-time. 200 days to the day since the iPhone first went on sale. 4m handsets sold to the date (20,000 per day) 19.5 per cent of the US smartphone share in US by end of September (though, as we know, it has been a harder sell in Europe).

New features: Customisable home screen, maps with ‘my location’ (far more accurate pinpointing than we have seen before via monitoring cell towers and – ingeniously, local WiFi hotspots), Dropped Pins, Webclips (effectively bookmarks which can be added directly to the home screen), Multiple SMS recipients. Sound familiar? Yes, this is firmware 1.1.3. What didn’t sneak through in the scoop however was new videos from iTunes will support subtitles and the ability to bookmark points for fast reference. Music bought from iTunes will also support the display of lyrics.

No 16GB / 3G iPhone *sniff*

All these features are coming to the iPod touch too, along with Weather and Stocks widgets and email like the iPhone. But get this there’s a catch: existing customers pay a ”$20 charge!” – it’s a great update, but demanding money for a firmware update seems extreme. At least new touch owners will get all this for free.

Google’s newly customised iPhone homepage is mentioned too.

*3. iTunes. 4bn songs sold, but 7m movie sales is below expectations. ‘iTunes Move Rentals’ introduced to solve this. All six major film studios are onboard, new and old titles are being offered. Over 1,000 films will be available by end of February.

Available 30 days after DVD release, can be watched anywhere and will allow 40 days to start watching and then 24 hours to finish – can be transferred between devices mid-viewing. Costs: $2.99 for a library title, $3.99 for a new release. Rolls out in the US today, goes International ‘later in the year’ (he means when licensing eventually gets sorted out).

Apple TV is being majorly spruced up too with the ability to rent these new movies durectly without any connection to a PC. Available in DVD quality and HD with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Audio and video podcasts downloadable too. Photos can still be dragged from the PC but there is support for Flickr and .Mac. All purchased content will sync with iTunes (this works for TV episodes and Music too) with 100 titles in HD initially costing $1 more for old and new titles repetitively. New menu system (above), also allows for free previews.

Here’s the kicker though: the whole thing is a free upgrade for all new and existing Apple TV units – it’s such a radical upgrade Jobs’ dubs it ‘Apple TV 2’. There’s a new lower price as well: $229 and it’ll be available in two weeks time.

As the first partner of iTunes Movie Rentals, Fox is given the chance to roll out its CEO. He explains that free digital copies of titles will begin to be included with new DVDs and Blu-ray releases – an interesting and progressive approach. He comments that Blu-ray looks to be the winner – we agree, and have done for some time.

That’s part one over. Check back very soon for part two – “There’s Something in the Air…”

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