Hands-on with new Apple TV and iPods; and notes on Ping, the iTunes social network


Apple showed off the latest editions of its iPod lineup and the Apple TV earlier today. The new iPod Nano loses the physical controls and adopts a multitouch display. The iPod Shuffle, however, gets them back.


The new Apple TV eschews local storage in favor of streaming HD movies and TV shows from the cloud. Netflix and network TV is on-board — but only Fox and ABC for now. It'll also play stuff on your home network, via WiFi or Ethernet, piped to the set using HDMI.


In a demo hosted by Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the new Nano was depicted at one point as a fancy wristwatch.


Jobs chats with journalists after the new gadgets were announced Wednesday in San Francisco.


The new Apple TV is only a quarter of the size of the last one, and about four inches square. At $99, it is less than half its price.

Xeni spent time with the new gear after the announcement, and called in with her findings. Firstly, an Apple spokesperson said that the new Nano and Apple TV don't use iOS, the operating system used on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. The lightweight tech gets custom software that still (in the Nano's case) incorporates multitouch.

The new TV box has a neat UI, but it is user-friendly connectivity — with other computer gear as well as the touted HD movie rental/tv services –that holds the most promise.

"The UI is improved, and so is the ability to bounce back and forth from YouTube to your own local video collection, to NetFlix and iTunes," Xeni said. "That freedom of movement and the freedom to view that same stuff on your phone, Apple TV and your computer, was already technically possible but you'd need five different things on five platforms, and nothing really talks to anything else. What Apple can do is put it all together and make it more likely more people will adopt it."

Not everything will go down well, however, especially the loss of local storage options in the Apple TV box itself: "Cloud rental is being pitched as freedom from having to store, but I think there'll be a lot of grumbling because people like owning things."

But Xeni did like the Nano: "It's really sweet, so small. I wanna eat it. It's as big as maybe four keyboard keys. It's like a pill you might swallow. The clip's snug."

Also announced was Ping, a social network tightly integrated with iTunes. "The value of any social network depends on how fast it builds nodes on the network, " Xeni said. "Apple's launching a network with 160 million iTunes users from day one. This bodes well for Apple. That's momentum that is nearly impossible to build organically."

People are pointing out all over the 'net that Apple is making a sharp move on Facebook, but given its tight connection to music, Ping's landgrab lands more on MySpace's turf.

However, you can invite Facebook contacts, with their consent, to join the network, though no details on integration were offered.