This latest Apple event was rumored to be a big deal, to the extent that even Apple representatives had been spreading the word: pay attention because we unveil hot stuff.
I suspect some will be dissatisfied with the actual event.
So what exactly was released? In a nutshell Apple updated almost the entire iPod lineup, including cosmetic and under-the-hood changes. They reverted the nano back to the 2nd generation tall look. (I have always been suspecting that the square design was a bit of a fiasco, since my own tall black nano have always felt naturally fitting into my palm.) The iPod touch got the look and feel of the new iPhone, along with its new features, including some really cool-looking games.
This all was more or less predicted.
The envisioned iTunes 8 changes have also made it into the release: HD TV shows are a logical step up (too bad most of us humans don’t live in the US…) and the new visualisation was a surprise to only a few.
So what then is that aforementioned big deal?
In my opinion, behind all the rainbow-coloured magic, it’s the Genius Playlist. No, not the fact that it puts similar tracks in a playlist based on some algorithm. For us who knew about Pandora or Last.fm‘s recommendations this is old news. I believe the most important fact about this whole genius business is somewhat shrouded by the hype around the feature. Nevertheless, after updating their iTunes all those iTunes Music Store shoppers will turn on the Genius Playlists and will provide Apple with a sea of invaluable statistics about their listening habits.
After all for the new feature to work Apple gathers all the play counts, playlist orders and whatnot. Anonymous it may be, it’s still an extremely valuable asset to know all these. Up until now Apple could only bargain with studios and labels with their “retail” stats: who bought what? if they bought this did they buy that too? etc. Now they will have a whole new set of information: who listens to what? how often? I’m sure you can all come up with a dozen questions like that. Questions the answers for which, incidentally, most people in the music business would die to know. And since this data is continuously collected Apple will not only have a snapshot but will be able to deduct trends.
After all they are the largest music retailer in the US. Now imagine, they will have the listening statistics of all those people around the world who just use iTunes as a music player.