Last week, Apple released a new version of its digital music jukebox iTunes 4.8 to little fanfare. This is perhaps to be expected, as the focus right now is on Mac OS 10.4 “Tiger”. Not enough focus (on Tiger, I mean), if you ask me. I’ve seen one print ad for Tiger in BusinessWeek magazine. You would think that with all the money they’re making, Apple could afford to run some TV ads touting Tiger there’s surely enough “eye candy” in Tiger to populate a trendy 30-second spot. But, I digress.
So, iTunes 4.8 quietly introduces two new features. Besides transporting your favorite music wherever you go, the iPod can also hold and display your Address Book and Calendar. Before iTunes 4.8, you needed to use another application, iSync, to move your Address Book and Calendar data onto your iPod. With version 4.8, iTunes now assumes these duties. It makes perfect sense hook up your iPod, and iTunes syncs your music, contact information, and calendar.
The second new iTunes feature has the potential to make a big bang, and could be a preview of bigger things to come. Awhile back, the iTunes Music Store (iTMS), accessed through iTunes, gained the ability to play streamed music videos (now numbering over 540) and movie trailers from within the iTunes application itself. iTunes 4.8 takes the concept a step further. The iTMS now offers “video singles”, and other music videos that are parts of complete album purchases. These videos can be viewed in a window within iTunes, a separate QuickTime window, or Full Screen on your monitor. Because they’re streamed or downloaded, the quality isn’t super, but it’s passable for a computer monitor.
In addition, you can now drag and drop any QuickTime movies with a .mov or .mp4 (MPEG-4) suffix into iTunes, and they are stored as part of your iTunes Music Library, able to be viewed in the modes described above.
What do these added video capabilities mean in the bigger scheme of things? Is Apple testing the technology needed to introduce the much-rumored iTunes Movie Store (or whatever they end up calling it)? Are they waiting on more content to be available, as well as the availability of QuickTime 7 for Windows? Only time will tell.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski