At his keynote at this week’s Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs took the wraps off iTunes (a free MP3 encoder, player, and CD-R mastering package) and iDVD, a new easy-to-use DVD authoring application for everyday digital video users. iTunes wants to be your all-in-one MP3 music application, enabling users to encode (“rip”) tracks from their favorite audio CDs, intuitively create and organize playlists, easily search and browser through larger libraries of songs, tune in to Internet radio stations, download music into portable MP3 players like the Rio or Nomad JukeBox, and make personalized CDs for use in your own stereo. iTunes also features “visuals” which can turn its window (or your whole screen) into a kind of kaleidoscopic lava lamp – but be careful of the full screen mode, since it can confuse some applications and floating palettes like Apples Application Switcher, particularly on multiple-monitor setups. iTunes is free from Apple – you can download the 2.6 MB installer right now. The program requires Mac OS 9.0.4 or later and will run on any Apple system released since August 1998, although its CD-writing features work only with the CD-RW drives in Apple’s new Power Macintosh G4 models. (Apple plans to release plug-ins for additional drive mechanisms in the next 60 to 90 days.)
iDVD is a new DVD authoring application from Apple which will only be available with Power Macintosh G4 systems. In essence, it wants to be to DVD authoring what Apple’s iMovie is to video authoring: simple, easy-to-use software which enables users to create their own DVD-ROM titles which can be played back on computers and consumer DVD players. With iDVD, users can combine still images and QuickTime movies, add pre-made or customized themes which control the appearance of interactive menus and buttons, and burn a DVD with just a mouse click. Apple’s leveraged the PowerPC G4’s Velocity Engine to get the MPEG 2 video encoding for DVDs down about twice the length of the video to be encoded, so that encoding a 15 minute video for DVD only takes about 30 minutes. iDVD is a logical evolution of Apple’s recent “video on your desktop” philosophy; although the new “SuperDrive” which can read and write DVDs will initially only be available on the high-end Power Macintosh G4 systems, it does bring the cost of DVD authoring into the range of some consumers.