Jan 7, 2009

Business - What Apple got for you

Cuts iTunes prices

Apple closed its final appearance at the Macworld trade show by cutting down the price of some songs in its market-leading iTunes online store to as little as 69 cents.

Apple's marketing executive, Philip Schiller, said iTunes songs would come in three pricing tiers: 69 cents, 99 cents and $1.29. Record companies will choose the prices, which marks a significant change, since Apple previously made all songs sell for 99 cents.

Lower iTunes prices were Apple's only nod to the recession -- and an oblique one at that, as record labels have been asking for years to set varying song prices.

17-inch Macbook Pro

Rather than an inexpensive new Mac to lure budget-conscious buyers, Apple unveiled a new $2,800 Macbook Pro laptop with a 17-inch screen and the sleek aluminum casing the company debuted with the super-thin Macbook Air.

Apple said the thin new 17-inch aluminum-cased Macbook Pro, which joins an existing 15-inch model, will start shipping at the end of January. Perhaps the biggest twist is the laptop's battery, which is designed to last longer on each charge -- up to seven or eight hours -- and work after more charges than older batteries.

But like Apple's iPod and the super-slim Macbook Air, the battery will be sealed inside and the owners won't be able to remove and replace it themselves. Instead, they'll have to spend $179 to have an Apple store expert swap in a new one.

DRM free-iTunes store

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At its last appearance at the Macworld, Apple gave the record labels that flexibility on pricing as it got them to agree to sell all songs free of "digital rights management," or DRM, technology that limits people's ability to copy songs or move them to multiple computers.

Apple had been offering a limited selection of songs without DRM, but by the end of this quarter, the company said, all 10 million songs in its library will be available that way.

While iTunes is the most popular digital music store, others have been faster to offer more songs without copy protection. Amazon.com started selling DRM-free music downloads in 2007 and swayed all the major labels to sign on in less than a year.

Over the air music download

Apple also announced that iPhone 3G users will be able to buy songs from the iTunes store using the cellular data network.

Previously, iPhone users could shop for tunes when connected to a Wi-Fi hot spot.This option on the iPhone which has the iTunes store built-in could be a huge boon to mobile music sales.

Software Packages

Apple also unwrapped new versions of two software packages for Macs, including the iLife multimedia programmes.

For instance, iPhoto '09 can recognise faces and sort photos based on who's in them. GarageBand '09 includes videotaped, interactive music lessons given by Sting and other musicians. Apple added more professional video editing features to iMovie '09.

iWork gets makeover

Apple's answer to Microsoft Corp's Office productivity suite, called iWork, also got a makeover, including zippy new ways to add animation between slides.

Apple also unveiled a "beta" test version of a website for sharing documents, iWork.com. Unlike Google Inc's online documents programme, however, Apple's version does not allow people to edit documents in a Web browser.

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