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Apple’s at it again

Just when I thought it was safe to pass by the Apple store on my next trip to the mall, Steve Jobs went and opened his mouth again. He gave all Apple fans reasons to make the detour and probably open their wallets.

I won’t go into all the details, as you can see the new stuff for yourself at the Apple site (www.apple.com). But Apple has surely reinforced its commitment to entertainment.

Music lovers have a couple of new lower-end iPods to choose from, starting at just $49 for the restyled iPod Shuffle. The new Shuffle actually looks much like it did a couple of generations ago. It’s a small square with a click-wheel and no display screen.

The iPod Nano has shrunk to about 1.5 inches square and now includes a touchscreen. Like the Shuffle, it’s wearable. The Nano starts at $149.

Those looking for a new iPod Touch won’t be disappointed. The new model acts much like an iPhone, except for the phone part. Sort of. The new Touch now features front-and-back-facing cameras, meaning Face Time calls are possible. Just like with the iPhone 4, Face Time works only in Wi-Fi hot spots, and both callers must have either the iPhone 4 or the new iPod Touch. The Touch starts at $229.

Finally, Apple wants to play a bigger role in your living room. Jobs unveiled a new Apple TV unit this morning that’s one-quarter the size of the original unit at a cost that is two-thirds less. It will be available in about four weeks for $99.

Jobs showed off the features, including partnerships with Netflix and rental deals with the ABC and Fox television networks. There will be no more buying television programs at the Apple iTunes Store; everything will be rented. First-release movies will cost $4.99 and TV shows will rent for 99 cents.

Apple TV doesn’t require a computer, but it can be added to a home computer network. The device will find videos and photos on the connected computers and make them available through the user interface.

There’s also a new iTunes Store on the way. Version 10 isn’t available for download yet, but Jobs said it will be very soon. The iTunes Store will include Ping, a social networking feature built around music. With more than 160 million people already using iTunes, I suspect Ping will quickly succeed or fail.

It looks as if Apple’s decision to drop the word "computer" from its corporate name was spot-on. Jobs talked for more than hour this morning, and didn’t reveal any new computers. At least not the kind we’re used to imagining.

Way to go, Steve.

 

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