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  • 03Sep

    New From Apple: Social Networking & Music

    From NYT

    Apple jumped into the social networking business on Wednesday, introducing Ping, a service built into iTunes that is intended to help users discover new music and, presumably, buy more songs from Apple.

    Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, showcased Ping at an event here along with a string of other new products. They included updates to Apple’s iPodline of music players and new software that allows wireless printing from iPads and iPhones.

    Mr. Jobs also introduced a much-anticipated upgrade of its Apple TV set-top box that is smaller and, at $99, significantly cheaper than its predecessor, which did not sell well. It allows users to rent television shows from Fox and ABC for 99 cents, and like many other devices, it can also stream movies from Netflix.

    Mr. Jobs said the changes to the iPod lineup, which include new versions of the Shuffle, Nano and Touch models, were the most significant since Apple introduced its first music player in 2001.

    “This year we’ve gone wild,” Mr. Jobs said. Sales of iPods have declined this year, but revenue from them has continued to grow as more buyers choose the higher-priced Touch model.

    An unexpected announcement from Mr. Jobs was the introduction of Ping. With it, users will be able to follow friends and see what music they have bought or enjoyed, what concerts they plan to attend and what music they have reviewed. They will also be able to follow bands and get updates on their new releases, concert tours and other events.

    Many other online music services like Pandora and Zune Social from Microsoft already have features that allow friends to share information about music.

    While other social networks have struggled in the shadow of Facebook, some analysts said that Apple had a chance to turn Ping into a success. The service will be instantly available to 160 million iTunes users, as long as they download the latest version of the software, which Apple released on Wednesday.

    “Apple wants to create even tighter links with iTunes users and keep them a click away from buying a song,” said Mike McGuire, a vice president with Gartner. “Ping will give people more reasons to spend frequently and rapidly.”

    While Ping may put Apple in competition with Facebook, its impact on the strugglingMySpace may be more pronounced, analysts said. MySpace has emphasized music over the last few years.

    “This isn’t about reconnecting with your girlfriend from eighth grade,” said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “This is about talking to people about music.”

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