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Apple squeezes video camera into iPod nano

But not the iPod touch

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Apple — in the person of CEO Steve Jobs — has announced a revamp of its iPod line, an upgrade to its iTunes Store, and a new version of the iTunes application for both Mac and Windows.

Jobs took the stage this morning at an event in San Francisco, California, and according to live blogs from Macworld and AppleInsider, the crowd went ballistic.

The Reg requested an invitation to the event. But as usual, Apple declined. They don’t like us.

Jobs, who had been absent from such events since his medical leave began this January, told the crowd that his new liver was from a person in their mid-20s who had died in a car crash and thanked the donor for “their generosity.”

“I’m vertical, I’m back at Apple and loving every minute of it,” Jobs told the cheering crowd.

Jobs also said that Apple has now sold 30 million iPhones, that the App Store now has 75,000 apps, that iPhone and iPod touch users have downloaded over 1.8 billion apps, and that over 8.5 billion songs have been downloaded in 23 countries from the iTunes Store by over 100 million user accounts.

Jobs announced the availability of iPhone Software 3.1 for iPhone and iPod touch users, available as a free download from iTunes for iPhone Software 3.0 users.

A new iTunes 9 was also announced, which includes such nifties as improved app management: Users will be able to drag-and-drop apps — singly or in groups — from a preview of their iPhone or iPod touch display. iTunes 9 is available for download from Apple.com now, but not yet from Software Update.

iTunes 9 also includes a new feature called Home Sharing — which requires a login — that allows you not only to stream songs from up to five authorized computers on your LAN as you can now, but also to copy them — along with movies and videos — among individual computer.

A Genius feature, similar to that in iTunes, is now part of a redesigned iTunes App Store. The Genius will make app recommendations from the Store based on apps you already own. The redesign also includes, according to Jobs, improved navigation of artist, movie, and TV pages.

The tools to build individualized pages will be given to the artists and labels themselves, and they will include the ability to create “iTunes LPs,” which can feature expanded cover art, liner notes, lyrics, videos, and the like, along with direct buying links — of course.

The same capability — that of adding “bonus content” — will also be provided to movie studios. The Grateful Dead, Pearl Jam, Dave Mathews, Nora Jones, and the Movie Wall•E (from Jobs’s Pixar studios) were provided as examples of providers of the expanded content.

Almost 225 million iPods have been sold, said SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Shiller, who took over the iPod part of the event from Jobs and who said that the iPod now has 73.8 per cent of the US market. Over 20 million iPod touches have been sold. When added to iPhone sales, over 50 million Apple handhelds now have access to the iTune App Store.

The new iPod touch line starts at 8GB ($199) and tops out at 64GB ($399), with a third 32GB model ($299) sitting between them for middle-of-the-roaders. Schiller claims that the 64GB and 32GB models are now 50 percent faster — which might very well be the case seeing as how they now have support for Open GL|ES 2.0.

The iPod classic lives on at the same price of $249, but its capacity has been increased from 120GB to 160GB. And, like the earlier iPod classic, it’s hard drive-based, not flash-based, as are all the other iPods.

Only minor changes were made to the iPod shuffle — namely new colors (now available in black, silver, pink, green, and blue) and a new 2GB model ($59). For stylistas, there also a new 4GB stainless steel model for $99. The non-stainless-steel 4GB model remains at $79.

Steve Jobs saved the best part — and the most-rumored part — of the iPod announcements to himself: a video-camera-equipped iPod nano. The camera is, as expected, on the back of the new nano, and it’s joined by an internal speaker.

The new nano’s display has grown to 2.2 inches (240×376 pixels), it has sprouted an FM tuner and a built-in microphone and voice-recorder, plus what Jobs described as a “built-in pedometer” that supports syncing to the Nike+ system. There are two models: 8GB ($149) and 16GB ($179).

Oddly, the video capability only exists in the iPod nano and not the iPod touch. As pleased as nano buyers are going to be with the new capability, it’s a sure bet that touch buyers will feel more than a minor twinge of disappointment.

It appears from the vast array of iPod touch games that were demoed during Schiller’s part of the event that Apple is increasingly positioning the iPod touch as a gaming competitor to the PSP and Nintendo DS. Schiller even compared the number of games available on the App Store — over 21,000 — to just over 600 for the PSP and in the mid-3,000s for the DS.

The iPod nano, on the other hand, is being positioned as a take-along “digital-lifestyle” tool, with a focus on social networking: after uploading to iTunes, video shot using the nano will have one-touch upload capability to YouTube, according to Schiller. Specs include H.264 VGA capture an 15 real-time in-camera special effects.

Before today’s announcements, the iPod touch and iPod nano were separated mostly by their interface — touch-screen for the touch and clickwheel for the nano — and the touch’s WiFi ’n’ web capability. Now they’re increasingly separated by their target markets.

Maybe Apple wants you to buy one of each? ®

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