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iTunes 4.5 Released, iTMS Updated W/Free Tracks, Limited WMA Support, iMix & More

iTunes 4.5 Released, iTMS Updated W/Free Tracks, Limited WMA Support, iMix & More

by , 3:00 AM EDT, April 28th, 2004

In the late hours on Tuesday, the iTunes Music Store began displaying information about new features for both the store and the now-available iTunes 4.5. The store now offers free downloads every week, user iMixes (playlists created by users and uploaded to the store), music videos, movie trailers, and radio charts. The new release of iTunes (version 4.5) includes a new party shuffle feature for dynamic playlist creation and modification on the fly, CD insert printing for burned CDs, a new lossless encoder, and Windows Media Audio (WMA) support in the Windows version. From the info page:

Free Downloads/Single of the Week
Great music from emerging artists each week. Check back every Tuesday for the latest

iMix - Publish Your Playlists
Be a tastemaker on iTunes. Publish your playlists for all the world to see. It's easy to send lists to friends and family via "Tell-A-Friend" to boost your ratings and top the charts.

Music Videos Page
Now there's a whole area dedicated to music videos, with new ones added all the time. Buy the songs you like with just one click.

Movie Trailers - Now in iTunes
The ultra-popular movie trailers from Apple's QuickTime site are now available on iTunes.

Radio Charts
Check out the most played tunes on your favorite radio station. Updated weekly, there are more than 1200 stations across hundreds of cities nationwide.

Party Shuffle
Playlists just got even easier. Party Shuffle is a new dynamic playlist that's always on and ready to party. It shuffles songs from your library or playlists, and you can add or delete on the fly. Be the DJ you've always wanted to be.

Links to Music Store
Your own music library now links back to the Music Store for a seamless connection to the artists you love.

CD Insert Printing
Once you've burned your CD, print a jewel case insert for it right in iTunes. Choose from several cool designs using a mosaic of album cover art or just a single cover. iTunes also lets you print a list of all the songs or albums in your music library.

Wish List
Found a zillion songs on the Music Store you want to buy? Save the previews by dragging them into a playlist and download them later with a single click.

Import WMA Files (Windows)
Along with your AACs and MP3s, you can now import WMA (Windows Media) files (unprotected files only).

New Features
Screenshot of the iTMS page detailing the new features

TMO will have full coverage when Apple officially releases details, as well as of this morning's conference call on the year anniversary of the music store.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We particularly like the iMix playlist feature, CD Insert Printing, and the Lossless Apple Encoder. The iMix feature could really help get people "involved" with the iTMS, effectively starting something close to a community around the store. That's an interesting tactic. CD Insert Printing is a fantastic feature for those who like to make their own mix CDs (the labels will no doubt hate it). The Lossless Apple Encoder will be very much enjoyed by audiophiles unhappy with the lossy AAC and MP3 formats. Perhaps even our own Devil's Advocate will appreciate it.

The ability to import WMA files is interesting in that Apple is allowing Windows users to convert songs, but is not actually supporting the playback of WMA files. That's a deliberate and artificial limitation, but Apple has repeatedly made it clear that it will try and keep iTunes and iPod limited. It will be interesting to see if many Windows users take the opportunity to make that conversion.

The Wish List should offer functionality similar to Amazon's Wish List, which allows people to denote things they want, while others can come in and pay for them. Such a feature could greatly increase participation from folks outside of iTunes' core user-base (think parents and grand parents), and that could lead to far greater sales. We hope Apple adds this in at some point.

We would also like to point out that Green Day's cover of "I Fought the Law" is included in the video section. That particular video is merely the Pepsi commercial, but Apple might be interpreting "video" differently than we would. Otherwise, we love the fact that one watch get videos through the iTMS now. That should be a good selling feature, and it will (more importantly) bring people to the iTMS in order to watch them on command. Watch out "M"TV.

Lastly, we'll specifically talk more about the iMix feature, as well as the local radio charts. Both of these features add a level of democratization to music sales, and that democratization pulls power away from the labels.

Apple is basically allowing ordinary people to voice their opinion on what is cool, and that sort of decentralizing power might make it possible for more people to be exposed to more music. As we have explored in past columns, that sort of decentralized power could eventually be a major threat to the labels. Label execs might be too stupid to see that aspect of what Apple is doing, however, so it will be interesting to see how this works out.

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