UPDATED: iTunes 8.1 Available Now

iTunes 7Along with the release of their new iPod shuffle, Apple (s aapl) has updated iTunes to version 8.1. New features include improved speed with large libraries, Autofill, a switch to 256-Kbps AAC as the new import default, and more notably iTunes DJ and Genius sidebar for Movies and TV Shows.

For a lot of users, the first two will be more than welcome additions — seriously, who can argue with speed improvements, especially if they apply to networked libraries as well. Also, as I’m sure a lot of other non-shuffle owners will agree, the Autofill feature is one that has been much lamented over. The shift to a higher encoding rate, however, is an interesting move and may cause confusion with some users when they suddenly can’t fit as many songs on their iPods and/or iPhones as they were used to, notable because Apple’s capacity calculations are still based on the 128-Kbps bitrate.

Party Shuffle has been transformed into iTunes DJ which, beyond a more suiting name change, adds an extra layer of interactivity for touch device owners with the Remote app (iTunes link), that was updated last night to version 1.2 to add iTunes 8.1 compatibility. When enabled, you can “allow guests to request songs with Remote for iPhone or iPod touch” as well as “vote to control when songs play.” Access to the DJ playlist is password protectable to limit access, and if you’re so inclined, you can also greet participants with a welcome message.

The update is available now via Software Update and the Apple-released notes for this update are below for your perusing.

  • Supports syncing with iPod shuffle (3rd generation).?
  • Allows friends to request songs for iTunes DJ.
  • Adds Genius sidebar for your Movies and TV Shows.?
  • Improves performance when downloading iTunes Plus songs.?
  • Provides AutoFill for manually managed iPods.
  • Allows CDs to be imported at the same sound quality as iTunes Plus.
  • Includes many accessibility improvements.?
  • Allows iTunes U and the iTunes Store to be disabled separately using Parental Controls.