So, Apple's new music service: download any song you want for 99 cents, and burn it to a CD, apparently without any rights-management. (There is rights-management for song-swapping, though.) Not bad. Almost cooler than the 99-cent-download, though: you can preview any song in the whole music catalog, which represents all the major labels.
OK, but here's something important: Apple was creative with their pricing strategy for when you want to buy a whole album: for instance, Beck's Sea Change, which has 12 songs, is sold for $9.99. This could be a watershed moment for the music industry: selling stuff in digital form for cheaper than they sell it in stores. Amazing. I can just see those record execs getting brainwashed by the Steve Jobs reality distortion field.
Some stuff you might miss if you weren't paying attention: the music store is integrated into iTunes 4* [screenshot], which was also released (although it's not on Software Update yet), as were the new iPods, which are higher-capacity, thinner, lighter, and have more built-in applications, such as a few games, a text reader, and an alarm clock.
Apple also introduces a proprietary audio format called AAC, which I assume stands for "
Apple Audio Codec Advanced Audio Coding". iTunes and iPod are compatible with it, too, obviously.
The music service is Apple-only for now, but will be available to Windows users later, a good way for Apple to generate much-needed revenue without requiring people to buy their machines.
*Now that I've downloaded it, I can tell you that the music store sort of turns iTunes into a web browser -- the store's pages show up in iTunes playlist window and look like webpages. As you can see from the screenshot [220 kb], when you click an album title, the top half of the window looks like a web page, and the bottom half looks like a playlist.
Update: Three more things about iTunes 4:
- It has file sharing built-in, but I'm not sure what you're supposed to do with it (Apple says it works with Rendezvous)
- The buttons have been cleverly redesigned to resemble iPod buttons
- There's a new button for "show/hide album artwork". Looks like you can drag a scan of some liner notes onto a box. In fact, you can drag the scans from Amazon right into it. Presumably, it works automatically with the music store, too. Strangely, though, iTunes associates the artwork with individual songs instead of albums. Does that mean you're supposed to copy the artwork for every song on the album? Hmm. One option is to shift-click all the songs on the album, and then drag your picture to the box. But still: it seems like it should be more automatic than this.