Apple's keynote address at Macworld yesterday may have failed to produce any dramatic new products, but iTunes users will be happy with announcements that dramatically change the way the company's music store operates.
As of today, all four major music labels – Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI, along with thousands of independent labels – are offering their music in iTunes Plus, Apple's DRM-free format with higher-quality 256kbps AAC encoding for audio quality almost indistinguishable from the original recordings.
iTunes customers can also choose to download their favorite songs from the world's largest music catalogue directly onto their iPhone 3G over their 3G network just as they do with WiFi today, for the same price as downloading to their computer.
And, beginning in April, based on what the music labels charge Apple, songs on iTunes will be available at one of three price points: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29, with most albums still priced at $9.99.
"We are thrilled to be able to offer our iTunes customers DRM-free iTunes Plus songs in high quality audio and our iPhone 3G customers the ability to download music from iTunes anytime, anywhere over their 3G network at the same price as downloading to your computer or via Wi-Fi," says Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO.
iTunes offers customers a simple, one-click option to easily upgrade their entire library of previously purchased songs to the higher quality DRM-free iTunes Plus format for just 30 cents per song or 30% of the album price. The iTunes Store will begin offering eight million of its 10 million songs in Apple's DRM-free format, iTunes Plus, today with the remaining 2-million songs offered in iTunes Plus by the end of March.
iPhone 3G users can now preview and purchase the entire iTunes Store music catalogue on their iPhone 3G over their 3G network, just as they do with WiFi today, for the same price and in the same high quality format. Songs purchased on an iPhone will automatically sync to a user's computer the next time they sync their iPhone.
Apple also unveiled the new 17-inch MacBook Pro featuring a durable precision aluminum unibody enclosure, and a new built-in battery that delivers up to eight hours of
use and up to 1 000 recharges for more than three times the lifespan of conventional notebook batteries.
The new 17-inch MacBook Pro has a high resolution LED-backlit display and the same large glass Multi-Touch trackpad introduced with the new MacBook family in October.
In addition, the new 17-inch MacBook Pro includes state of the art NVIDIA graphics and the latest generation Intel Core 2 Duo mobile processors. As part of the industry's greenest notebook family, the new 17-inch MacBook Pro is made of highly recyclable materials, meets stringent energy efficiency standards and is made without many of the harmful toxins found in other computers.
"We've developed new battery technology that is better for the user and better for the environment," says Jobs. "Apple's advanced chemistry and innovative technology deliver up to eight hours of use on a full charge cycle and up to 1 000 recharges."
The new 17-inch MacBook Pro includes an ultra-thin, widescreen glossy 1920 x 1200 display with 78 percent more pixels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro and a 60% greater color gamut that delivers desktop-quality color in a notebook. The LED-backlit display has brilliant instant-on performance, uses up to 30% less energy and eliminates the mercury found in industry standard fluorescent tube backlights.