While yesterday's keynote from Apple brought Face Time to the iPod Touch and a multi-touch screen to the iPod Nano, two new products could have wider effect. Ping, a social network focused on music, is a new feature of iTunes 10,
and Apple TV has features that a wider variety of people will find useful.
Besides a new logo, the latest version of iTunes will have a function that allows users to follow what their friends and favorite musicians are listening to. Ping will integrate into the music, video and app store, and each user has a profile to set up that displays musical tastes and downloaded songs. The service will also be available on mobile devices with Wi-Fi.
What gives Ping an advantage is its built-in user base - Apple did not launch a separate app for Ping, but kept it uniformly tethered to the iTunes program. In this way, it may make up for its shortcomings. Instead of vying for attention as Last.fm had to do to gain users at launch, Ping comes pre-populated. But the Recent Activity stream seems to have downloads and reviews from friends, as well as posted images from artists, but not what they listen to that is not purchased. The "Top Music" in Ping Charts is explained as "the top purchased songs from people you know," which could be dramatically different than friends actual listening habits.
As for the Apple TV, the streaming set-top box has long been of limited usefulness - it downloaded or streamed purchased material from the iTunes store. Owing its simple interface to usual Apple design, the $99 multi-use device only needs one cable to connect to the TV and it can play purchased or rented media from the iTunes Store or now from Netflix as well. Additionally, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users can use Apple TV to stream music, video or photos to the TV using AirPlay, formally known as AirTunes. According to Reuters this afternoon, Netflix shares rose three percent today.