Apple Computer last week took the wraps off iTunes 5.0, the latest version of its free jukebox software for Mac OS X and Windows.
iTunes 5.0 adds the following new features:
After many years of user lamentation, playlists can now be organized into hierarchical folders. For instance, you could have an upper-level playlist for a particular artist, and playlists within that for individual albums by that artist.
Parental controls can be used to restrict purchase of music flagged as having explicit lyrics in the iTunes Music Store. It can also disable the Music Store altogether, as well as podcasts and shared music.
A new Search bar improves starting and refining a search.
Smart Shuffle enables the user to "adjust" iTunes shuffle mode by controlling how likely they are to hear songs by the same artist or from the same album. Apparently this is in response to customer complaints that the random shuffle mode didn't seem sufficiently random: perhaps by making it less random, users will feel it will be more random?
The iTunes window features a new "streamlined" look with no brushed metal, less 3-D bevelling, and a more-square window. John Gruber has hysterically satirized the visual change (with some strong language) at Daring Fireball.
Windows users can synchronize calendar and contact info to Outlook or Outlook Express
iTunes 5 is available for free; it requires Mac OS X 10.2.8 or later or Windows 2000 or XP. For Macintosh, the standalone installer is 13.8 MB.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs also outlined the current market position of Apple's iTunes Music Store, claiming the service is currently selling more than 1.8 million songs per day and accounts for an 82 percent market share in the United States, and almost 85 percent of the global digital music market. The store now offers over 2 million downloadable tracks - which makes its library the largest of the digital music download services. Perhaps more importantly, the store now boasts over 10 million account holders worldwide which, as Jobs noted, "come with credit cards."
Jobs also announced that the iTunes Music Store now carries all six Harry Potter titles as audio books, and unveiled a new iPod with an engraved Hogwarts emblem. (Hogwarts is the school young wizard Harry Potter attends in the popular books.) The Harry Potter Collectors iPod costs $300; the digital boxed set of the six audio books costs $250 (they're also sold separately).
The store is now providing access to more than 15,000 podcasts via its podcast directory, a number Jobs said is "exploding" by growing by more than 1,000 a week.