Apple today launched what the company calls the "second generation" of the iTunes Music Store with a slew of related announcements. Most important is undoubtedly the release of iTunes for Windows, which not only brings what is arguably (according even to some Windows users) the best MP3 player on the planet to Windows, but also opens up the iTunes Music Store to oodles of Windows users and connects to the iPod. In short, without a close examination, it sounds as though iTunes for Windows is extremely similar to iTunes for the Mac. iTunes 4.1 for Windows requires Windows 2000 or XP running on a PC with at least a 500 MHz Pentium-class processor and 128 MB of RAM. It also needs QuickTime 6.4, which is included in the iTunes for Windows download, accounting in part of the size of the 19.1 MB download. Look for perky press releases from Apple in the coming weeks that gloat about the number of downloads from Windows users.
Released simultaneously via Software Update were QuickTime 6.4 and iTunes 4.1 for Mac OS X. iTunes 4.1 enables you to synchronize On-The-Go playlists or voice notes that you create on your iPod with iTunes, can burn large playlists to multiple CDs or DVDs if necessary, lets you drag links from iTunes to Web browsers or email programs (you can also Control-click links and choose Copy iTunes Music Store URL), and lets you buy Audible spoken word content from the iTunes Music Store. iTunes 4.1 is a 6.2 MB download and QuickTime 6.4 is a 19.8 download. You may also notice that the iTunes Music Store now supports gift certificates and monthly allowances for song purchases and that iTunes displays album notes, sometimes including reviews, for many albums; these changes appear in iTunes 4.0 as well.
Also announced today was the addition to the iTunes Music Store of more than 5,000 titles of Audible’s spoken word content: audio books, radio shows, audio editions of magazines, speeches, lectures, and more. Audio books seem to be either the same price or $1 cheaper than the same titles on Audible’s Web site (for non-subscribers of Audible’s $15 and $20 monthly plans, which are likely still a better deal for those who listen to two audio books each month).
Lastly, Apple is now saying that by the end of October, the iTunes Music Store will have 400,000 songs, provided by the 5 major labels and more than 200 independent music labels. That’s twice as many songs as were available initially in the iTunes Music Store, and the first Apple has said in public about offering music from independent labels, though it has been known that Apple has been working with independent labels for several months. It’s a bit surprising that Apple isn’t saying more about the addition.