iTunes 10: Out With the CD, In With the Social Network

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After nearly a decade, iTunes is getting a new icon with the release of version 10 today. Steve Jobs joked about the looming obsolescence of the CD featured prominently in the logo now that iTunes sales are poised to surpass CD sales for the first time in history.

Ping

The new icon is a metaphor for what’s to come in iTunes’ future. The emphasis will be on music, yes, but also on what’s unique about music on the web. Accordingly, Jobs also introduced Ping, a brand new social network Apple created specifically for iTunes. Ping allows users to share activity with their friends, and follow their favorite artists to receive updates about concerts, albums, and more.

Ping resembles social media interfaces users are already used to, like Facebook and Twitter. In fact, I was struck by how much it resembled Facebook’s news feed when Jobs was showing it off during the presentation. It resides right within the desktop version of iTunes, and is accessible by clicking on a link in your source list on the left. You can also access it on your iPhone or iPod touch, using the onboard iTunes application.

The types of activity available in Ping include text and image updates, a list of upcoming concerts and events, recent purchases made in iTunes, and a custom-generated top downloads charts that reflects purchases made by your network of friends. You can also see the favorite tracks of friends and artists you follow in Ping.

Users can custom set their privacy filters according to how accessible they want their Ping information to be. Ping is available today on iTunes 10, which is a free download from Apple.com. It’s open to 23 countries initially, with more to follow in the future presumably.

UI Tweaks

Other changes to iTunes include UI simplifications and changes, including a new list view that features album cover artwork for albums on which you own more than five songs, instead of just displaying the CD name over and over again. Not a huge change, but it’ll make things prettier and should make for a slightly improved user experience.

I’m curious, who’s planning on actually using Ping? Can’t say my interest is really all that piqued, despite Jobs’ heavy use of Gaga in the product demo.

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