"The Apple Store is down!" wailed voices on the web at 5.15pm yesterday. "When is it back? What's going to be on there when it does?"
For the first time this year, there was widespread uncertainty over the contents of an Apple launch; we knew about the iPad in January (although not what it would be called) and we knew about the iPhone 4 in June (because an Apple employee accidentally left one in a bar). But the only clue this time was an acoustic guitar emblazoned across the Apple website. Would there be new iPods? Perhaps a revamped iTunes? As the sound of Paul McCartney singing "We Can Work It Out" drifted over the speakers before the event got under way, there was even a frisson that the Beatles catalogue might finally be going digital.
But there was no Sergeant Pepper. Nor was there a technological lightning bolt; the most rumoured prediction, that Apple's music delivery service, iTunes, would move "to the cloud" to allow us to access our music library from any device, had even forced Sony to announce their own streaming service earlier in the day. But that didn't transpire. We were introduced to a new line-up of Apple's iPod range – a gadget that has sold some 275m units and revolutionised music listening habits. New iPod shuffle and iPod nano devices, neither much bigger than a commemorative Christmas postage stamp, were overshadowed by its bigger brother, the iPod touch – trumpeted by Jobs as not only being the best-selling iPod, but the most popular portable game player in the world. This will now have an improved retina display, gaming functionality, an HD video recorder and two cameras, thus allowing it to run FaceTime, Apple's videophone technology. In essence, an iPhone, just without the phone.
Apple's love of music is largely reciprocated by the music business; while piracy runs rampant and streaming services such as Spotify are accused of undermining business models, Apple remain dedicated to selling music. And the most surprising unveiling – a music-based social network called Ping – is going to be an integral part of that. While other such networks exist – notably Last.fm, Songkick and the latest version of Spotify – Ping could quickly dwarf them all, both as a means of communicating with fellow music lovers and for artists to communicate with fans. And the "buy" button will always be right there.
Another potential piracy-killer is the new AppleTV, a quarter of the size of its rather unpopular elder brother and retailing at under £100– that will allow us to rent and stream TV shows for pence, and HD movies for not much more. News of the content that'll be available in the UK is still to be confirmed, but by saying goodbye to the downloading and purchasing of online video, and making it easier and cheaper than ever before to watch that media on your television, illegal downloading may suddenly feel like a waste of time and effort. The media industry will be delighted – but they'll also be waiting anxiously to see how willing we are to part with our money.Reuse content