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

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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?

11 Responses to “iTunes 8, Genius, HD Shows, and Welcome Back NBC”

  1. Tyler, you’re misunderstanding what Jason is proposing. SD TV shows are $1.99 per episode, and HD TV shows are $2.99 per episode. If the upgrade charge is $1.00 per episode, Apple doesn’t stand to lose any money, and can realize good revenue from people “upgrading” their libraries later when they buy an HD TV or otherwise decide they want to pay for higher quality video.

    The problem with the current SD / HD choice on Apple’s site is that without an upgrade path, they lose out on selling users on upgrading their video libraries from SD to HD. Very few people would seriously consider paying an additional $60 for a TV series that they already paid $48 for, especially when they have no ability to resell the SD episodes they purchased earlier.

    Apple needs to provide upgrade paths like these to avoid consumers chafing under a DRM-controlled media library whose media, once purchased, cannot be resold. It’s a big change from CDs and DVDs!

  2. From what I’ve experienced so far iTunes 8 is absolutely fantastic. Genius has to be one of the best things to ever pass through my iTunes Library (Well aside from my iPod Touch.) Anyway with the genius sidebar I’ve been exposed to numerous, great bands I probably wouldn’t have been able to find on my own. And, as to Jasons’ comment, even though I don’t purchase TV shows through iTunes, I think being able to upgrade your pre purchased ones to HD is a fantastic idea, but not smart on apples part. If that were the case, sorry about being an ass, but it would be $.01 cheaper to buy SD and upgrade.

  3. The genius playlist generator is very good. Even on my medium sized library it found similar tracks and grouped them well. And they say the grouping is only going to get better!!

    The genius sidebar is only really useful if you buy lots of music, it’s there simply to sell you music that you haven’t got but might want. Luckily you can hide the bar

  4. Jason Volk

    I think Apple should offer an upgrade charge if you want to make TV shows you have bought in the past HD. Just like what they did for iTunes Plus. Maybe like $0.99 upgrade charge or something. People’s thoughts?