Apple Launches Social Network, Destroys Cable TV

There were some jaws that had to be picked up off the floor this morning when Apple held its latest media event. Emceed as ever by Steve Jobs, the event was primarily about Apple updating its entire line of iPods, but it was a handful of other announcements that stole the show.

Here’s a quick rundown of everything you need to know.

1) Ping. Perhaps the biggest news of the entire press conference: Apple has entered the Social Media War with its very own social network. But instead of making it a network about anything and everything, Apple has shrewdly zeroed in on one aspect of its business that it would be most beneficial to add social features to: music on iTunes.

Ping works much like Facebook, but it’s all about music, allowing fans, musicians, and friends to be easily linked together, so you can see what your friends are buying, thinking, what concerts they’re going to, and more. It’s pretty nifty, but it should be interesting to see if users who are used to doing their social networking on the web will be willing to give that up; Ping works only inside iTunes, or your iPhone or iPod. Ping comes with iTunes 10.0, a brand new version of iTunes, which should be available to download for free shortly, with its shiny new CD-less icon.

2) AppleTV. New 99¢ TV show rentals are certain to hasten Cable’s demise, and could take a good chunk of satellite TV as well. Imagine new TV show episodes available to rent for one dollar, and every TV show imaginable is available. If you watch fewer than 50 or so new episodes of TV a month (and most of us probably do), then what reason is there for subscribing to cable or DirecTV anymore? Movie rentals are $5, day and date with DVD releases. The big AppleTV upgrade also unveiled an entirely new device that’s only 1/4 the size of the original, ditches hard drive storage in favor of rentals from-the-cloud, and even adds streaming from Netflix. And it costs $99, a fraction of the old device’s price.

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3) iPods. The entire line of iPods (except the iPod Classic) got a complete overhaul. The Nano and Shuffle are now very nearly the same size — a tiny little square clip-on doodad — only the Nano comes with a small touchscreen. The iPod Touch is even thinner than before (apparently Steve isn’t going to be satisfied until it’s a razor blade), while adding front and back cameras for picture and video taking, as well as FaceTime, the iPhone’s much-ballyhooed video chat app. Available next week.

4) iOS 4.1. The first major upgrade to iOS 4 fixes a lot of bugs and adds GameCenter — essentially Apple’s version of Xbox Live. Gamer profiles, leaderboards, multiplayer matching, the works. It’ll be a free download for iOS 4 users. iOS 4.2 is planned for November, and brings all of the iOS 4 stuff to the iPad.

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Robin Parrish
@robinparrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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