iTunes 8, Genius, HD Shows, and Welcome Back NBC

At this morning’s special event, Jobs announced quite a few updates in relation to iTunes and the iTunes store including the newest version of iTunes, Genius, HD shows, and the return of NBC.

iTunes 8

Today Apple has released the next major version of iTunes, available view Software Update or the Apple website. The biggest new feature being added is called Genius (presumably named after yours truly). Genius allows you to create playlists at the click of a button. Just select a song, click the Genius button and iTunes creates a playlist of songs from your library that it thinks will go great together.

Where does iTunes get this sort of data? From the bagillion songs that have been purchased through the iTunes Store, of course! When you fire up iTunes 8 for the first time, you can opt-in to sending your data (completely anonymously) to Apple for them to add to their pool of data to help the community at large get better recommendations…the idea being that Genius will just get smarter and smarter as more data is uploaded.

In addition to creating playlists from your own library, Genius can suggest songs (conveniently from the iTunes Store) that you might like to have in your library. I’m afraid this feature will significantly increase the amount of music I buy.

Genius will also work offline as data is sent back to your computer when you create a Genius playlist.

I gave Genius a go and must say the playlists it created for me were pretty spot on as were the song suggestions in the iTunes store. Some of the newer music I’ve got (as in less than a week old) threw a message back saying it didn’t have enough data, but I presume that in the next few days as hundreds of thousands of people start using Genius, those sort of messages will become pretty rare.

Genius playlists, once created, can be saved and then “refreshed” later on to be updated based on new Genius data.

Also new in iTunes 8 is a grid view for your music. During today’s keynote, Jobs said the “old” way of browsing your music wasn’t efficient, so they created a new grid view for browsing your music. The grid view acts a lot like iPhoto in that if you group by something like “Artists”, where an artist might have multiple albums, you can scrub your cursor over the grouping and see all the albums in that group.

This wasn’t mentioned today, but iTunes 8 also has a new visualizer that has some pretty trippy stuff. The visualizer isn’t really my thing (honestly it gives me a headache), but if that’s your bag, you’ll probably love this.

HD TV Shows

Today Jobs also announced that the iTunes store will now start adding HD content for TV Shows. HD shows will be $2.99 while SD shows will stay $1.99. Quite a few of the more popular/newer shows are already available in the store in HD. Viewing the HD content requires an update to QuickTime 7.5.5 (available today as well).

NBC Returns!

Last August, NBC announced they wouldn’t be renewing their contract with Apple due to disagreements over DRM. It seems NBC and Apple are now playing nice again and the NBC lineup has returned with a number of their shows also available in HD.

Have you given any of these iTunes updates a try? What do you think of the new Genius feature?