iTunes 7 arrived in September with much fanfare from Apple, along with a new generation of iPods. The latest version of the Apple jukebox software packs in plenty of new features and includes an updated interface for many common tasks, not the least of which is managing an iPod. Although there were problems with the initial iTunes 7 release, Apple has provided an update that appears to fix the majority of those issues. So, here’s a tour of what’s new in iTunes 7.
Probably the biggest new feature in iTunes is the ability to buy feature-length movies from the iTunes Store. This is a feature that makes it possible to buy movies any time, watch them on a computer, or sync them to a video iPod. So far, the selection is limited to movies produced by Disney, though Apple is aggressively working to build that selection. Even limited to Disney titles, there is a broad spectrum of recent and classic movie titles available from a variety of genres—including horror flicks, thrillers, comedies, and kid titles.
I’ll be the first to say that I was skeptical of Apple making the iTunes movie experience worthwhile. Not only is iTunes competing with DVD purchases but it’s also competing with online/mail rental services such as Netflix and Blockbuster (as well as the corner video stores in most neighborhoods). However, Apple picked a very good price point and if you’re looking for a movie that you plan to watch more than once, you can get it more cheaply through iTunes than you can by purchasing a DVD (unless you opt for previewed DVDs). One thing that’s missing is the DVD extras option(commentaries, featurettes, and deleted scenes). My skepticism aside, it seems that Apple has come up with a solid strategy that—from all reports—is succeeding pretty well.
Browsing or searching the iTunes Store for movies is simple and straightforward and, provided that you have a broadband connection, download speeds are pretty good. The average title can be downloaded in less than an hour on most cable and DSL connections. Once downloaded, movies can be played on your computer or synced to an iPod.
I’d like the feature a lot more if I could burn movies to DVD for playback on other devices, but Apple prevents that through its digital rights management technology. If you want to watch your purchases on a TV, you’ll either need to connect your Mac to that TV (which we’ll cover in my next article) or connect a video iPod to that TV. To connect your video iPod to your TV, you’ll need to use Apple’s iPod video cable, a universal iPod dock, or one of several third-party docks on the market that offer more detailed features such as Griffin’s TuneCenter. Or, of course, you could wait for Apple’s forthcoming iTV, which is due early next year.