Apple has announced immediate availability of its ITunes Jukebox software and the second generation of its related music service to all computer users - not just Mac fans. Also new are a handful of features and accessories, plus plans to distribute up to 100 million free songs early next year.
The launch event here marked yet another milestone, noted Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive officer: "Now I'm going to do something I've never done before -- I'm going to give you a demo on a PC."
New customers, features
PC users running Windows XP or Windows 2000 can now download the new ITunes for Windows at the ITunes site free of charge, Jobs said as he walked the audience through a demonstration. "This is not some baby version--it's the whole thing," he said, noting that the two versions have all the same functions. "It's probably the best Windows app ever written."
The new ITunes Jukebox for PCs offers several features lacking from other free Windows-based applications, including those from Microsoft and Musicmatch, he said. Apple provides MP3 encoding and full-speed CD burns, for which the other services charge extra.
Plus, the software is the only way to access the ITunes store. It works for Windows users exactly as it does for Mac users, he said. And both types of customers can now find new features on the ITunes site.
Chief among them: More songs. Launched in April with 200,000 songs, the site will offer more than 400,000 songs before the end of October, according to company plans. Jobs noted the number could have been higher, but said Apple is more selective than some services. The company has deals with the five major record labels, as well as with 200 independents.
Also new are a deal with Audible.com that lets ITunes users buy audio books; ITunes electronic gift certificates; an allowance service so parents can dole out music-buying money to youngsters; and celebrity playlists where you can find out what Sting, Michael Stipe, and others recommend.
During his presentation, Jobs used Apple's IChat instant messaging to talk with celebrities around the world, including Mick Jagger, Dr. Dre, and Bono -- who drew the largest reaction from the crowd.
"It is a very cool thing for musicians and music," Bono said in a video. "I want you to know that we appreciate it. Making Apple a crossroads for all kinds of artistic endeavors. That's why I'm here to kiss the corporate ass. I don't kiss everybody's."
New IPod Extras
Finally, Jobs also announced release of several new features for newer-model IPods that include a docking interface. The company is adding voice memo capabilities, as well as a photo storage feature that lets users move photos from a camera's flash card onto the IPod.
The software is free, but using either feature requires accessories from Belkin. The add-ons are a new US$50 Voice Recorder that includes a built-in microphone and a speaker, and a new $99 Media reader that supports CompactFlash, SmartMedia, SD (Secure Digital), Memory Stick, and MultiMediaCard standards.
Jobs said Apple has sold about 1.4 million IPods since launch. The company released its third generation of the popular player earlier this year.